Vancouver dispensary sells $10,000 worth of pot daily, documents show
One Vancouver marijuana dispensary society sells about $10,000 of pot a day, and makes millions a year in revenue, according to financial statements obtained by CTV News.
The documents show the yearly total revenue at the Vancouver Dispensary Society is $3.5 million, and for the first time give an indication of the resources the industry could marshall to fight a plan by the city to shut some of them down.
“We’re fairly busy and we’re not the top dispensary in the city,” said society director and marijuana activist Dana Larsen.
The Vancouver Dispensary Society operates two dispensaries, one on East Hastings and the other on Thurlow Street.
And with at least 100 other dispensaries doing similar business in Vancouver, Larsen estimated a revenue of between $200 million and $400 million a year – in the range of $1 million a day. He said he makes a negligible profit, while he buys products, pays employees, donates to pro-marijuana causes, and pays taxes.
“Even if the city wins, they still lose. All that means is $300 million a year in marijuana sales goes from the stores to the streets,” he said.
The city has moved to licence a handful of those dispensaries, but told the rest to shut down by the end of April. Dozens have challenged those orders at the city’s Board of Variance.
Three have taken the city to court, with more to come, said lawyer Robert W.E. Laurie, who is representing SWED Cannabis Society, the Green Cross Society, and Van City Medicinal Society.
“The city is doing an elimination strategy, not regulatory policy,” said Laurie, who argued the rule that keeps dispensaries more than 300 meters away from schools, community centres, and facilities for youth doesn’t make sense in Vancouver’s dense environment.
“If the city is going to make things overly difficult, businesses are not going to comply, and city resources and money are going to be wasted in litigation."
The Goliath versus Goliath battle could have been stopped well before the industry got rolling, said opposition NPA councillor Melissa De Genova.
“I think that’s the question I’ve asked since day one,” she said. “It’s my understanding this will be a costly process.”
The financial statements say the Vancouver Dispensary Society raised about $27,000 in its first year in 2008, and lost $5,800.
But then business picked up: by 2009, it made about $1.1 million, with a profit of about $2,000. By 2014, the last year documents were available, revenue had climbed to $3.5 million.
Larsen said business had been slower since 2014 as the number of dispensaries rose, but didn't give exact figures.
The society had not disclosed these records before being ordered to do so by the B.C. Registrar of Corporations in March. Some dispensaries are societies and others are companies. Societies have greater transparency obligations than corporations.
When CTV News called other dispensaries to ask for similar information, those dispensaries refused to provide financial information.
Larsen said the city should be glad the money is being made in storefronts rather than on the black market.
“This is an industry the city council wants to shut down, eliminate 90 per cent and put all the sales on the street. That seems absurd to me,” he said.