In the first months following Canada’s legalization of cannabis, the industry has recorded more than $150 million in retail sales with Alberta leading the way according to Statistics Canada.

As of the end of February, there are 75 retail cannabis stores operating in Alberta, 24 of which are in Calgary. The province’s stores have combined to sell $33 million worth of legal marijuana since October 17, 2018.

Alberta’s place at the top of marijuana sales comes as little surprise to industry experts as the province’s store numbers dwarfs all other provinces. Newfoundland has the second-most cannabis stores in Canada with 25 retail outlets currently operating while other provinces have yet to open a single cannabis store.

“We have interest in other provinces as well so, when the whole process starting last spring, we were monitoring every province and we were ready to deploy our strategies across the provinces that made the most sense,” said Ryan Kaye, 420 Premium Market’s vice-president of operations. “We could see right away that our home province of Alberta was a few steps ahead of most of the other provinces. Alberta entrepreneurs got to work as we all expected they would.”

“We’re pleased to see that Alberta is the most developed market in Canada so far.”

Mount Royal University currently offers three cannabis education courses with focuses on plant production and facility management, marketing a cannabis enterprise, and government relations and finance.

Brad Mahon, the interim dean for MRU’s faculty of continuing education, says the courses, which are eight to 13 weeks long, have attracted a mix of curious tire-kickers, recreational users, and budding entrepreneurs. ““You can compare this to the end of prohibition. It’s a whole new sector coming on line and we’re really at the forefront of something right here.”

The decision of Alberta Gaming Liquor Cannabis (AGLC) to stop issuing retail licences due to supply concerns likely stunted the sales numbers but the businesses that are operating say they have been overwhelmed by the demand for their product.

“We expected a high level of demand (and) we’re very happy with that,” said Kaye. “We weren’t sure exactly what to expect but the most important and most encouraging thing to us is the really strong demand for legal, regulated cannabis that is tested. We can provide surety as to what that product is. There’s a really huge appetite for that in Alberta and across Canada.”

420 Premium Market currently operates four stores in Calgary and is awaiting licences to operate its locations in Canmore and Brooks as well as locations in Kensington and on Stephen Avenue.

“The AGLC is putting a bit of a pause on licensing. They want to make sure they can control the flow of licences and make sure everybody has product to sell, which is understandable,” explained Kaye. “As things move along, and we get more clarity from AGLC on what product supply looks like and what their licensing abilities are, we’ll make decisions on which stores are next and what are timelines are on that.”

As of Wednesday, 633 licence applications are awaiting approval from the AGLC and the organizations has stopped accepting applications until the backlog is addressed.

With files from CTV’s Jordan Kanygin