Canada’s legal weed struggles to light up as smokers stick to black market

The Guardian – By Leyland in Toronto – April 17, 2019

Six months after legalisation, licensed producers are unable to keep up with the demand or quality of neighborhood dealers.

When Melissa, a resident of Halifax, Nova Scotia, went to one of Canada’s first government cannabis stores, she wasn’t impressed. “You can’t look at what they have. You can’t smell the product,” she said. “It’s too expensive.”

And so she, like tens of thousand of other Canadians, went back to their old habits: buying from neighbourhood dealers.

Six months after Canada became the first G7 country to legalise marijuana, the bold experiment is still struggling to get off the ground.

Legal producers were unable to meet the sudden surge in demand, and struggled for weeks to fill orders, leaving marijuana stores with empty shelves.

As a result, the vast majority of cannabis sales in the country – roughly $5bn – are made on the illegal markets, compared to $2bn in legal sales, according to government figures from January 2019.

Canadians who purchase their cannabis from illegal sources also save a significant amount of money: the average price for a gram of illegal cannabis is 36% cheaper than its legal counterpart, Statistics Canada has found.

“As long as that price differential exists, there will likely be a black market – because people will go to where they can get a deal,” said Rosalie Wynoch, a policy analyst at the CD Howe Institute, a conservative thinktank. “The government was aware that it wouldn’t fully displace the black market on day one.” She and others suspect the black market will persist for at least another two years, as it did when Colorado legalised cannabis.

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Posted by Teri Perticone


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