B.C. cannabis companies say eight is not enough when it comes to retail stores

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Running legal dispensaries in B.C. is a numbers game and the big players say they’re losing out.

Currently, no cannabis retail businesses are permitted to operate at more than eight locations in the province—a rule meant to encourage competition and give small owners a fighting chance in a tough industry.

Only 14 dispensaries are currently on the right side of the law in B.C. as bigger companies are forced to be selective about where they set up shop.

“Having that eight-store limit in British Columbia has been incredibly difficult,” said Jeff Donnelly, owner of the Hobo Cannabis Company store chain.

“We have locations that we wanted to buy development permits for in Vancouver that we had to hold off on because we were waiting to find out whether we were going to win a request in Kelowna,” Donnelly said. “The same thing happened in New Westminster.”

The rules governing a company’s retail locations vary by province—Ontario allows up to 75 stores while Alberta has no limit, but forbids any company from running more than 15 percent of the province’s cannabis shops.

“To have an eight-store limit is definitely challenging,” said Krystian Wetulani, CEO of City Cannabis Co. “It makes you focus more on the premium locations, making sure you’re really maximizing your eight stores,” Wetulani said.

The challenge won’t be going away anytime soon, said Mike Farnworth, B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. There are no plans to review the regulations until 2021 when the hope is that local ownership will be flourishing alongside the top dogs.

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