One of the biggest problems facing public pot companies is the surge in grey market dispensaries that sell product of unknown origin, especially in cities such as Vancouver and Victoria. Stewart says there is one set of rules governing the licensed companies, businesses that have had to overcome a lot of hurdles to get to their position, while the small dispensaries seem to operate outside the law, though there was plenty of speculation in September that the RCMP would step in to rectify that situation.
“All the companies licensed are struggling because everyone is buying from the black market,” Stewart says. “You can’t advertise in Canada. You can’t show pictures of bud on your website. But you can stick it to the man and walk down to Granville Street and talk to a beautiful little barista who is tattooed head to toe and who will give you a coffee and let you pick from one of 60 strains. That’s why there are over 100 dispensaries operating in Vancouver.”
Booth says pricing is also an issue. “We need to be competitive and our cost per gram is very good, I think,” noting that a gram costs $1.50 and sells for between $7 and $10. “We’re comfortable there’s a stable price.” But Stewart is worried the black market is winning. “The illegal operations are the dispensaries that do 10 times the cannabis sales of all the legal companies combined,” Stewart says. “That’s Vancouver and Victoria and there’s a pretty prolific cannabis centre.”
Wayne, however, says he’s convinced the market in time will transition to more reliable, legal and licensed product. “Increasingly, we are having people converting