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Nova Scotia seeing a rise in illegal cannabis dispensaries operating in the province

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Nova Scotia’s cannabis market is facing challenges, as the province sees more illegal cannabis dispensaries emerging.

“The only legal retailer is the NSLC and I have concerns,” said Allan MacMaster, minister of Finance and Treasury Board. “Anybody can see that there are many illegal dispensaries around the province.”

According to Statistics Canada, Nova Scotia leads the country in cannabis use. NSLC said retail customer transactions increased for cannabis by 14.5 per cent in the last year.

As of now, there are 110 NSLC stores in the province, 50 of which are dedicated to cannabis. In order to eliminate the cannabis black market, MacMaster said the province has been keeping the price of cannabis down.

Between Oct. 2, 2023 to Dec. 31, 2023, NSLSC’s average price per gram for cannabis decreased by 4.3 per cent to $5.96. It is also reporting sales grew 17.7 per cent to $10 million.

However, for Chris Backer, cannabis is central to his lifestyle. From growing it for work to using it for medicinal purposes, he says what he gets from the Nova Scotia liquor store is not cutting it.

“So many people don’t get what they need because it’s not available at the liquor store,” said Backer.

He said he understands the reasons people may prefer going to illegal operating cannabis stores.

“There are government regulations and some people need more THC than others do, depending on tolerance and their health. The limits the government puts on it at the 10 mg, I would have to eat so many gummies that even if they dropped the price I still can’t afford to buy them from them.”

For him, the locations are too few and far apart especially when leaving the city.

The NSLC has also been expanding its reach.

A Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation store is seen in downtown Halifax on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

“In 2018 when we first started, we had 12 stores and now we’ve grown to 50 with the opening of Shelburne last week. Every conversation we have when we look at either building a new store or renovating an existing one, cannabis is a conversation,” said Terah McKinnon.

McKinnon said the stores offer delivery as well to make it more accessible.

“Right now we have almost 80 per cent of 19-year olds and older Nova Scotians who are within 10 kilometres of an NSLS cannabis location.”

This year, RCMP has shut down four dispensaries.

“We have almost two different types of sellers. Some are from residents (and) they use mail, so it would be a house or somewhere. Other ones are actual physical buildings and actual stores that are selling. Currently there’s a big element of mobile ones, so a trailer or being towed behind a vehicle,” said RCMP Staff Sgt. Robert Frizzel.

The RCMP is encouraging Nova Scotia residents to inform them of any illegal dispensaries operating across the province.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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