Cannabis plants are seen during a tour of a Hexo Corp. production facility, Thursday, October 11, 2018 in Masson Angers, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canadian company to launch low-cost cannabis product to undercut illicit sellers

Company targeting those who still buy illegally

Cannabis company Hexo Corp. is moving to undercut prices in the illicit market with a new 28-gram product that costs consumers as much as one dollar less per gram than at the average illegal dispensary.

The product, under the brand Original Stash, which will be on sale in Quebec cannabis stores starting Thursday for $125.70, or $4.49 per gram, including taxes, the company said.

That’s cheaper than the average cost of a gram of cannabis at $7.37 per gram during the third quarter, with the price of legal and illegal weed at $10.23 and $5.59 per gram, respectively, according to the latest Statistics Canada analysis of crowdsourced data.

Hexo is targeting the roughly half of Canadians who — one year after the legalization of recreational pot — are still buying weed from the illicit market, its chief executive Sebastien St-Louis said.

“That 51 per cent of Canadians that buys illegally, when they walk into their dealer, they don’t pay tax… Hexo is absorbing that cost for them. We’ve listened, we’re removing their reason for not shopping legal,” he said in an interview.

He said Hexo is able to offer a one ounce, or 28 gram, product at this relatively low price point for various reasons, such as less packaging needed for the bulk size rather than individual packaging for each gram or 3.5 gram product. St. Louis added that the licensed producer increased its production scale and lower hydroelectric costs in Quebec also allow the company to reduce its price.

READ MORE: B.C. selling less legal cannabis than any province other than P.E.I.

Hexo worked with Quebec’s provincial cannabis corporation on this pricing strategy and it will be on sale exclusively at its shops starting tomorrow.

The company is currently working with entities in other provinces, such as Ontario and Alberta, to do a similar low-cost product.

Canada legalized recreational cannabis on Oct. 17 last year, making it the first G7 country and the second country in the world to take that landmark step.

Once the initial product shortages and supply chain bottlenecks eased, legal cannabis sales in Canada have grown but a large proportion of buyers continue to turn to illegal sources for pot.

In the second quarter, household expenditures on cannabis at licensed retailers was $443 million, up from $172 million in fourth quarter of 2018, according to Statistics Canada. But pot expenditures at unlicensed retailers amounted to $918 million, down from $1.17 billion in the fourth quarter of last year.

When deciding where to buy cannabis, 76 per cent of Canadians who consumed pot in the first half of the year cited quality and safety as an important consideration while 42 per cent mainly considered price, according to Statistics Canada survey results released in August.

St. Louis said that the cannabis used in its Original Stash products are only low price, but not low quality.

“This is high-quality cannabis flower, it has more THC than what’s available on the black market,” he said, noting that it has between 12 and 18 per cent tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound that produces a high.

He added that it is not a loss leader, but would not talk about specific margins until Hexo reports its earnings on Oct. 24.

READ MORE: B.C. still losing money on legalized marijuana sales

When asked about a potential price war among other large-scale producers, as signs of pricing pressure emerge, St. Louis said he was not concerned.

“It’s not much of a war, if the other side has no chance,” he said. “Most of the other licensed producers don’t have the cost structure that Hexo does.”

He also noted that with capital drying up in the broader market, most of the production facilities underway “will never get finished,” he said.

The product launch comes after Hexo lowered its net revenues forecast for its upcoming fourth-quarter ended July 31, and it withdrew its $400 million net revenue guidance for its 2020 financial year.

St. Louis said more details on its guidance would be provided during its upcoming earnings, but said the decision to pull back stemmed from the uncertainty facing the cannabis industry. He expects that this low-cost product will be a key part of its strategy to reach 20-plus per cent market share in the coming years and ramp up its revenues.

“We’re very bullish on Original Stash, how its going to perform. But we’ll monitor it,” he said. “We didn’t want to be in a situation to commit to specifics in this unsure industry.”

Armina Ligaya, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The 21st annual Japanese Cultural Fair streams online Oct. 24 from noon to 3 p.m. (Facebook/Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society)
Esquimalt’s Japanese Cultural Fair takes tastes, experiences and cultures online

21st annual free event streams Saturday, Oct. 24 starting at noon

Const. Graham Walker of the Saanich Traffic Safety Unit recreates an incident involving a driver who police say attempted to film the scene of a crash while driving up Highway 17. (Saanich Police/Twitter)
Police track down driver caught filming accident scene on Pat Bay Highway

Driver issued $368 ticket, points on their licence

Sooke man Rik Downer spent two weeks in the Royal Jubilee Hospital after contracting flesh-eating bacteria. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Sooke man’s bumped knee leads to fight for life

Man unknowingly contracts case of rare flesh-eating disease

Victoria High School. (Black Press Media file photo)
Alumni Association abandons plans for eight-lane track at Vic High

SD61 spokesperson says easement, which makes 8-lane track impossible, left out of consultation

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

The possibility of the Canadian Premier League expanding to the Fraser Valley has been floated online. (Facebook photo)
Canadian Premier League possibly eyeing Fraser Valley expansion

Soccer league looking to add ninth team to the mix, B.C. markets potentially rumoured

Most Read