Ontario pot orders surge amid quarantine
Canadian cannabis sales soared in March as consumers stocked up on recreational pot amid supply concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Statistics Canada said Friday Canadians bought $181 million worth of cannabis in March, up 19.2 per cent from the prior month, marking one of the biggest monthly jumps since recreational pot was legalized in October 2018.
Canadians flocked to licensed cannabis stores across the country in March ahead of planned government-mandated shutdowns aimed at curtailing the spread of COVID-19. However, most pot stores remained open as provinces such as Ontario allowed retailers to offer curbside pickup and home delivery services.
Sales increases were observed in every province and territory, except for Prince Edward Island. Quebec led the country with a 29 per cent rise in pot sales from the prior month, while Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia also posted double-digit percentage gains.
Overall, sales nearly tripled from the same month a year earlier when $60.9 million worth of cannabis was sold. However, hundreds of licensed pot stores have opened in Canada since then.
Canada's sales increase in March mirror similar figures seen in several U.S. states including Illinois, Arizona, and Michigan. Cantor Fitzgerald & Co. analyst Pablo Zuanic said in a report released earlier this month that some of those sales increases likely came as cannabis consumption rose with more people staying at home, rather than from consumers simply stocking up.
Consumption rose in Canada as well. A recent survey from StatsCan showed 6.5 per cent of Canadians increased their weekly cannabis consumption in mid-March due stress brought on by COVID-19, with only 1.6 per cent decreasing their consumption.
While several licensed cannabis producers have also hinted at a sales spike in March, Aphria Inc. CEO Irwin Simon recently said April’s consumption levels have normalized.
"More recently, consumption has returned to more normalized pre-COVID-19 levels for all regions except Quebec where cannabis sales remain at even a higher level," Simon said during the company's quarterly analyst call last month. "Our Canadian medical cannabis has experienced an increase in demand since the outbreak of the virus."
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story misstated the monthly percentage change of cannabis sales in Canada in March, as well as in Quebec. BNN Bloomberg regrets this error.