Cannabis supply slowly improving but not enough to allow more licences: AGLC

Cannabis producers are trying to catch up to overwhelming demand. While supply issues are improving, Alberta Gaming Liquor Cannabis' hold on issuing new retail licences remains. Tom Vernon reports.

The Alberta regulator in charge of the legal marijuana market says supply is improving, but not enough to start issuing new cannabis licences.

Cannabis was legalized across Canada on Oct. 17, 2018. On Nov. 21, Alberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis suspended new applications and said it wouldn’t issue any additional cannabis retail licences until further notice.

AGLC said the temporary suspension was required because it had only received 20 per cent of the product it ordered and expected from licensed producers.

READ MORE: AGLC says it’s only received 20% of cannabis ordered from producers; halting new retail licences

On Thursday, the provincial regulator told Global News there are no notable updates to the supply shortage. While it’s slowly getting better, AGLC said it’s not enough to sustain demand and therefore the suspension on new licences remains in place.

“AGLC continues to monitor cannabis supply and is working with our licensed producers to obtain as much product as possible for the Alberta marketplace,” spokesperson Heather Holmen said. “AGLC is also working to bring on newly federally licensed producers as they are approved by Health Canada.

“Although we continue to receive cannabis products, the quantities are not such that we are able to lift the licensing hold at this time.”

“The supply challenges have not entirely been overcome, but largely overcome,” said Allan Rewak, the executive director of the Cannabis Council of Canada, which represents licensed producers.

He confirms there were production challenges navigating the new, complex and highly regulated industry.

READ MORE: Canada-wide cannabis shortages could last years, producers warn

“We’ve faced issues from the logistics and the supply chain elements of production that did create some shortages.

“But I’m pleased to say cannabis remains available, we still have cannabis stockpiled, and we’re working very hard to get that in the hands of our provincial distributors, and through those provincial distributors, retail outlets all across Alberta.”

WATCH BELOW: Those in Alberta who are waiting for a licence to sell pot won’t be getting one any rime soon. As Quinn Ohler explains, the reason for that has to do with a marijuana supply shortage. (Aired Nov 21, 2018) 

AGLC has signed contracts with 15 federally licensed cannabis producers. The AGLC website lists 65 licensed cannabis retailers across Alberta — 10 of which are in Edmonton.

As of 11:30 a.m. Thursday, albertacannabis.org had 65 of its 139 products listed as available — as opposed to out of stock. The products available included dried flowers, capsules, pre-rolled joints, oils and seeds.

Seeds for people to grow plants are a fairly new product offering. While they were legal on Oct. 17, they weren’t available right away (most producers do not offer seeds) and the AGLC website just started offering them to consumers a couple of weeks ago.

“Due to the high degree of regulation, things such as the application of excise stamps proved to be a little problematic during the initial stages of legalization,” Rewak said. “Remember, these were all new aspects of the production regime under C-45, which is different from the previous medical system.”

WATCH BELOW: Alberta is changing the way it distributes cannabis to businesses after some retailers complained they can’t buy any pot while their competitors can. Fletcher Kent reports. (Nov. 14, 2018)

Rewak believes Canadians should expect “a remarkably improved system” within six months to a year.

READ MORE: Fights over tight cannabis supplies prompt Alberta regulator to change rules

“It is impossible to say with absolute granular certainty when the supply issue will be resolved,” Rewak said. “I think it’s getting better each day. Each week and each month, we’ll see continual improvement as we bring more production online and we get more product out the door.

“What we’ve seen through legalization is an incredible demand for legal cannabis from Canadians. That’s a really positive sign for both the sector and the government.”

READ MORE: How much weed was sold on Canada’s legalization day, province-by-province

Retailers have experienced the challenges meeting demand first-hand.

“There were a few issues with getting supply,” said Ryan Seeras, chief operating officer of Numo Cannabis. “We’ve been open for over a month and we’ve had continuous supply.”

“It’s not been as big of a shipment as we had hoped… but we’ve been open and it’s been kind of a continuous supply.”

Seeras said there were several days where they had to close the store because they ran out of stock but admits the supply situation is getting better.

He would also like to offer customers more options in terms of diversity of strains.

“We do want to offer the best kinds of strains available, but there have been quite a few times where it’s like, well, what is available on the website is what we’re trying to grab,” Seeras said.

READ MORE: More Edmonton Cannabis stores face supply shortages; demand ‘way more than anticipated’

Rewak added that huge demand is also good news for the labour market. By the end of 2018, he estimates 10,500 Canadians were directly employed in the cannabis sector.

“That will grow exponentially,” he said. “There are some estimates that in six to seven years, we’ll see up to 150,000 directly employed in this industry, from processing to retail to production.

“This is one of the most innovative and exciting sectors in the Canadian economy. We’ll create thousands of jobs on a monthly basis.

As the industry evolves, it will include new product categories as well, like vape pens, beverages and edibles, he said.

“There are, I believe, 138 cultivation facilities across the country,” Rewak said. “Six new licences were granted last Friday, but those were for processing facilities that will take and refine cannabis into concentrates, edibles and new product categories.”

WATCH BELOW: Some Albertans in the pot business say early cannabis sales figures are encouraging. Tom Vernon reports. (Dec. 27, 2018)

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