Province can sell pot cheaper than private stores

Gov't has unfair advantage

Privately owned marijuana stores are crying foul over a competitor that they say is operating with an unfair advantage.

There have been rumblings in the industry about there not being a level playing field with some Indigenous shops opening up without a license while other stores had to navigate a maze of red tape.

While that issue still remains a sore spot for many pot shops, there is another pot seller that has store owners seeing red: the provincial government.

Store owners claim the government has stacked the deck in its own favour when it comes to selling weed, and there is even talk of a lawsuit over the growing issue.

Jordan Perkins operates five pot shops in BC, including ones in Lumby and Armstrong and he has to pay the province 15 per cent more the same product as the BC Cannabis store pays.

“They are undercutting us,” said Perkins. “They are also the only people that are allowed to sell online. I can't sell online, but the government can sell online. Nobody should be shopping at the government-owned stores.”
Perkins said the provincial stores also have much deeper pockets, because the start up costs and employee wages are paid by tax dollars.

“We are in the middle of COVID and the government is opening up a store to compete with its citizens. It just doesn't make sense,” he said.

Vernon Spiritleaf owner Sarah Ballantyne, agrees the government has given itself the upper hand on several fronts when it comes to selling pot.

Ballantyne said on top of the 15 per cent mark up, private stores have to pay shipping costs the government do not.

Ballantyne said many store owners are also upset that they were forced to pay thousands of dollars to have their windows covered as mandated by the province, only to have the rule reversed.

However, Ballantyne said the local government store was opened without the window coverings.

“So they knew about the policy change weeks before opening,” she said. “And people, as of Tuesday, still spent thousands of dollars to cover their windows.

Ballantyne said private stores are also only allowed eight stores per chain, “but the Vernon store was the 17th store that they opened. So they are not even playing by their own rules.”

All of this has raised the ire many in the industry and Ballantyne said there is talk about filing a class-action lawsuit against the province.

It's just at the beginning stages, but there are a couple groups working on it,” said Ballantyne.

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