COMOX, B.C. -- The shelves are much fuller now and cannabis store owner Sheila Rivers says that's just one of the positives that her business has experienced over the past year.

"We were really surprised initially by the lack of options that we could bring into the store. It was a year into legalization so we thought that we would have more options," Rivers says about what it was like opening on Oct. 30, 2019.

"We had hoped all of those wrinkles would have been ironed out by the time we had opened and I can stand here a year later and say that those aren't problems any more," she says.

Rivers is the owner of Coast Range Comox Valley, one of many private cannabis stores operating on Vancouver Island. 

One of the challenges she hadn’t expected was COVID-19, which actually worked in the business's favour.

"We were seeing so much panic buying, especially with our ounces,” she says.

“People just buying up what they could, so for us being a new business only about four months in at that point, to get that extra exposure of people was huge for us.”

Cory Waldron, owner of two Mood Cannabis locations in Nanaimo, says business is good but competition is fierce.

"It's a very restricted market, so I don't think it's the boom that people thought it was going to be but it's fun,” Waldron says. “I really enjoy it.”

Part of Waldron's challenge has come in the form of competition, including from provincially run cannabis shops.

"We have more cannabis stores opening around us, we just had a government cannabis store open so we feel the effects of that but overall it's been pretty decent," he says.

Rivers says consumers have also benefited over the past year, with prices dropping.

"Prices within the last year especially have come down considerably for legal cannabis and they're definitely hitting that black-market price,” she says. “Plus, you get the benefit of all the Health Canada testing, the variety and the convenience of being at a legal store.”