More Edmonton cannabis stores face supply shortages; demand ‘way more than anticipated’

It’s been a week and a half since recreational cannabis became legal in Canada and already, some retail locations have sold out of their product supply.

At 9 a.m. Monday, signs posted on the doors of the Nova Cannabis on 104 Street in south Edmonton said the store was temporarily sold out of marijuana and that it was expected to reopen after it receives more product.

However, at about 9:30 a.m., employees removed the signs and said the store would be open at 10 a.m. but with very limited supply.

Since Oct. 17, there have been long lineups at retail cannabis locations across the city. Several pot shops sold out within a few days.

A north Edmonton store, Alternative Greens, was completely sold out by Friday, Oct. 19. There were signs advising customers that staff would be restocking product soon but even ordering product from the provincial regulator to restock the shelves has been challenging.

“It’s been very frustrating. We go onto the retailer side of things and there’s nothing available for us to buy,” Alternative Greens’ Roseanne Dampier told Global News on Monday.

“If you don’t get to check out and pay for that at that second, it can literally disappear from your shopping cart and it’s gone,” she added.

“On the retailers’ side of things, it’s definitely still cutthroat.”

Dampier said they’re losing business every day they have to keep the doors closed and not being able to offer enough product isn’t helping.

“When we made our first order, one-third of our stock did not come in the first order,” she said. “One-third of it just wasn’t there.”

A sign at the Nova Cannabis store on Calgary Trail in south Edmonton on Oct. 29, 2018.

A sign at the Nova Cannabis store on Calgary Trail in south Edmonton on Oct. 29, 2018.

One of the Nova Cannabis stores in Edmonton, on Oct. 29, 2018.

In Alberta, the liquor, gaming and cannabis commission (AGLC) handles all online orders while private businesses are allowed to obtain a licence and sell in-person.

Between 12:01 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 17, the Alberta cannabis website sold $730,000 worth of pot products.

A senior communications officer for the AGLC said Monday that overall demand for legal cannabis in Alberta has absolutely been more than expected.

Kaleigh Miller said in addition to huge demand and interest, the AGLC didn’t receive as much quantity or variety from licensed producers as it anticipated. Alberta continues to work with producers to get as much stock as possible.

“Alberta was very fortunate because we were one of the first regulatory bodies to sign supply agreements with the licensed producers,” Miller said.

“From the early onset we were able to cement what we wanted and we forecast a healthy demand to the industry. They’ve been supplying us with some stock but they’re definitely not keeping up with the obligations that they had.”

Still, product continues to come in on a steady basis and Miller doesn’t believe the site will completely run out of product.

By 12:30 p.m., only nine of the 116 listed cannabis products were not “out of stock.”

“We’re definitely low on a lot of things,” Miller said. “We allotted a certain amount of stock for the online platform and we’ve moved as much as we can to the retailer side for them to purchase, because we also realize they’re in the same boat.”

Watch below: Alberta cannabis store Fire & Flower explains different strains of pot

Finance Minister Joe Ceci also said the province is looking at bringing in additional stock from other licensed producers, including from B.C. Miller said that process, from a legal, regulatory and administrative angle, could take about one to two months.

“I’m not aware of any real problems right now. I think the website is up and running and people can go there for the available product they want,” Ceci said Monday morning.

“The AGLC is telling me for the initial period of cannabis roll-out, they feel like they have adequate coverage in terms of supply; it’s the 30 to 90 days they’re concerned about.

Allan Rewak, the executive director of the Cannabis Council of Canada, represents 85 per cent of the country’s licensed cannabis producers. He agrees that the demand overall has been overwhelming.

“We will continue to face, I believe, some supply challenges over the next six to 24 months but they will be intermittent and will improve each day.”

The industry is especially challenging because it takes a couple of months to cultivate, grow and harvest cannabis and every step of the supply chain is complex and highly regulated, Rewak said. He admits there have been a few hiccups.

“We’re overcoming them and licensed producers are resupplying Crown corporations as we speak. And we can expect this process to continue,” he said.

“We have seen quite a bit of product shipped over the last… even the last 48 hours to Crown corporations and distributors.

“Licensed producers have scaled up. We have the capacity. We have the product. We will be getting it onto the shelves in the coming weeks and days and months.”

In the first five days of marijuana legalization in Canada, Alcanna, the producer that operates five Nova Cannabis stores in Alberta, made approximately $1.3 million.

Between the 10 a.m. opening on Wednesday, Oct. 17 and the 10 p.m. closing on Sunday, Oct. 21, Alcanna processed approximately 17,000 separate transactions and sold approximately 68,000 individual SKUs (stock-keeping units).

And more new businesses are joining the market.

“We continue to license new retailers who want to get into the industry, which is excellent,” Miller said. “But they, of course, are being given kind of the caveat that there’s supply issues and that they may not have much stock for their new stores for the first little bit.

“I think everyone is feeling the pinch and we’re just trying to get through this little bit of a hurdle as best possible.”

Watch below: It’s official – cannabis stores are up and running across Alberta. In Edmonton and surrounding areas, there were quite the lineups outside the stores ahead of the 10 a.m. grand openings. Julia Wong has the details.

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