HALIFAX — Atlantic Canadians are buying far more legal cannabis per capita than Canadians elsewhere in the country, federal figures show.
Statistics Canada has released province-by-province sales numbers for the first six weeks of legalization up to Dec. 1.
The numbers reveal dramatic differences between provinces.
Prince Edward Island tops the list, with residents on average spending $13.83 each on legal pot in six weeks.
Nova Scotia came second at $11.34.
Newfoundland and Labrador came in third at $8.17, followed by New Brunswick at $6.87.
The national figure was $2.65.
Cannabis industry expert Deepak Anand said all four Atlantic provinces were well-prepared for legalization and are now reaping the benefits.
“A province like New Brunswick came out very early on, and had a very early lead,” said Anand.
“They saw not just recreational legalization but medical legalization coming on board, and they gave the whole cannabis file to their economic development ministry, that worked with companies that were producers to try to set up in the province… They were very eager to get ahead.”
Elsewhere in the country, Albertans spent $4.53, Ontarians spent $1.54, Quebecers spent $2.53 and British Columbians just 69 cents.
B.C. is a special case because of its well-established and widely tolerated grey-market dispensaries, Anand said.
“There hasn’t been this aggressive enforcement on existing dispensaries to shut down, though the province has hinted many times that that’s coming,” he said.
“There wasn’t that level of enthusiasm in B.C. as we saw in the rest of the country, because cannabis access has been relatively easy in B.C. versus other provinces.”
Provinces that had well-developed retail systems open on Oct. 17 brought in much more revenue.
Anand said this is because many consumers want in-person advice, and want to be able to see — and smell — the product before they buy.
“There is a desire and an intention, and perhaps a willingness to pay a little bit more to go to a store and talk to a person, versus simply buying something online,” Anand said.
“They want to go and talk to someone and understand all of its properties and understand what it is going to do, even though there is limited information that stores can give. That human interaction is something that people like.”
On Wednesday, P.E.I.’s finance department said that cannabis sales to the end of the year came to $3,509,913.