We ranked Canada's cannabis-friendly provinces from worst to best

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Canadians are clearly in love with cannabis, but not all provinces were created equal when it comes to permitting pot. While the historic Cannabis Act applies to all provinces, the rules around distribution and consumption fall to the provinces — and municipalities have some say on it, too.

That’s why for Canada Day, The GrowthOp takes a look at the growing industry from coast-to-coast — crunching the data on price, consumption habits, number of stores, public consumption options and the ability to grow at home — to find out which provinces are rolling out the red carpet for weed and which are still warming up to the country’s second favourite leaf.

Here are our findings.

10. Manitoba

With public use of pot prohibited and home-growing reserved for medical cannabis users, Manitoba may not be the easiest place in the country to unwind with a joint at the lake this Canada Day. And if you managed to stock up ahead of time, a recent StatCan study suggests you may have paid more than the rest of the country for your supply. Hopefully your latest purchase eases your pain.

9. Quebec

With sales restricted to consumers 21 years of age or older and home-growing forbidden, Quebec makes consumers work for their high. The restrictions have likely just made the unregulated market more appealing, with lower prices than the tightly regulated SQDC. But even those lucky enough to get their hands on some quality bud may find themselves without a place to legally light up. The grass is a little greener in Montreal, which allows connoisseurs and novices alike to smoke wherever tobacco is allowed, but the province is definitely easing into the industry at its own pace.

8. Saskatchewan

The province’s private-sector approach to legalization yielded early dividends and could have helped Saskatchewan meet consumer demand. It currently boasts close to 50 stores for a population of around 1.2 million, but higher-than-average prices and an inability to indulge in the great outdoors might have residents looking at other provinces with envy.

7. Prince Edward Island

Canada’s least populous province was, by our metrics at least, in the middle of the road among its provincial peers. The Island only has a handful of retail stores — all government controlled — but a small enough population to make it work when combined with online offerings. The province initially closed its outlets in the face of Covid-19 but soon allowed them to reopen after discovering, along with the rest of the country, how essential the drug had become. You may not be able to light up in public but — just like in the rest of Atlantic Canada — you’re allowed to put your green thumb to good use by growing at home.

6. Nova Scotia

The province may only have a dozen or so retail stores, but that hasn’t stopped Nova Scotia residents from getting hands on with marijuana. More than 25 per cent of the population tried the drug in the past three months — tops in the country — with many using the over 80 areas the province has specifically set aside to get your toke on. With only P.E.I. residents spending more on cannabis on a per capita basis the future looks bright out east.

5. Ontario

Canada’s most populous province stumbled out of the legalization gate, choosing a controversial lottery system to award the first two rounds of retail licences. The rollout proved anything but smooth, so regulators reversed course, lifting the cap it had placed on legal dispensaries late last year. The province, which has been playing catch up ever since, reached a welcome milestone this month when the doors opened on its 100th retail store with hundreds more in the pipeline. With public consumption and home-growing allowed, residents will no doubt find some way to pass the time while they wait.

4. New Brunswick

An underwhelming foray into the industry convinced Cannabis NB, the provincially owned marijuana regulator, to announce plans to take its 20 retail stores to a private operator. Early growing pains were blamed on a strong illicit market and restrictive regulations. Sales have picked up since those early days, but the government is still losing money and hopes to unload its properties as soon as possible. With few provinces spending as much per capita on cannabis, things are bound to get better soon.

3. British Columbia

The province most synonymous with weed has found itself playing catch-up as it fights off a stubborn legacy market. Provincial regulators’ decision to let municipalities opt out of cannabis retail stores created vast areas without legal weed sources that has left B.C. with the lowest per capita sales of any province in the country. As the industry matures and more illegal operations transition to the legal economy — expect the quality and prevalence of legal B.C. bud to bounce back.

2. Alberta

With more legal retail stores than any other province — more than 400 and counting — Alberta quickly emerged as a pot powerhouse by allowing private-sector participation in the industry. It doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the few stops on our cross-country tour that allows for public consumption and the only one that makes the drug accessible at the age of 18. Alberta’s buzz has faded a bit recently as the province navigates regulatory hurdles the government expects will keep it in the red for the next three years.

1. Newfoundland & Labrador

It seems only fitting that the most pot-friendly locale in the country would also be the site of Canada’s first legal cannabis sale (if only because its location puts it a few hours ahead of the rest of the country). The province allows home grows, boasts more stores per capita than most of the country and more than 1 in 5 residents reported using the substance in the past three months. Sounds like a nice place to visit.

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