BC’s regulated cannabis market growing briskly: new report

A photo of dried cannabis, a cannabis joint and packaging on a table.
Flower and pre-rolls made up 84% of regulated cannabis sales in BC by THC weight.

Cannabis products in BC are getting cheaper and more potent, and its year-over-year sales have doubled between 2019 and 2020, according to a new report from the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR). In 2020, sales added up to nearly 8,000 kg of THC—equivalent to approximately 400 million joints (at 20mg of THC each) and accounted for about $290 million in gross revenue.

The report looked at sales data from the BC government, including from wholesale sales, private retailers and retail sales from BC Cannabis stores (in person and online), between legalization in Oct. 2018 and Dec. 2020. Researchers, led by CISUR director Dr. Tim Naimi, calculated the potency of all 1,811 unique products in milligrams of THC to allow comparison across products. Annual legal cannabis sales in BC rose from 64 mg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per person over age 15 (a standard measure for controlled substances) in 2019 to 129 mg in 2020.

The province recently announced it would allow private retailers to offer home delivery of cannabis starting July 15, which is likely to drive sales further.

“As cannabis sales by the BC government expand, we hope there is a balance between consumer preferences, revenue considerations and public health,” says Dr. Naimi. Examples of such strong policy solutions might include cannabis-specific taxes, minimum prices per gram of THC, and potency restrictions, he says.

Some other highlights from the report:
  • Flower and pre-roll products accounted for approximately 84% of all cannabis sales by THC weight.
  • The largest total amount of THC was sold in the Interior Health Authority, but on a per-person basis the largest amount of THC was sold in the Northern Health Authority.
  • Private retail outlets outnumber government stores by 10:1 and sell four times as much cannabis by THC weight.
  • For flower, pre-roll, vape kits and vape cartridges sold at government retail stores, higher-potency products tended to be cheaper per fixed amount of THC than lower-potency products.
  • Since sales were legalized, the median sales-weighted price for flowers and pre-rolls has steadily decreased, meaning consumers are buying increasingly cheaper and stronger products. For flowers, the average price including taxes is approximately 12 cents per 5 mg unit of THC, so a joint containing 20 mg of THC costs about 50 cents.
  • Retail outlets for buying regulated cannabis in BC are still on the rise, as the province went from 128 private and 11 government stores in Dec. 2019 to 270 private and 25 government in Dec. 2020.

This research was supported by the Government of BC.

Read the release at UVic News.