No ifs or butts: Canada’s marijuana runs low weeks after it was made legal

Consumers return to black market as retailers say suppliers not growing enough plants

 A woman smokes a joint on the day Canada legalised recreational marijuana in Toronto, on October 17th. Photograph: Carlos Osorio/Reuters

A woman smokes a joint on the day Canada legalised recreational marijuana in Toronto, on October 17th. Photograph: Carlos Osorio/Reuters

 

Canada is running low on legal pot three weeks after the government approved the use of recreational marijuana, a shortage that is sending some frustrated consumers back to the black market.

At least three provinces – Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick – are facing a dearth of legal marijuana, and two of them have seen outlets selling cannabis temporarily shut down for lack of supply. “We need more weed!” said Trevor Tobin, who teamed up with his mother to open a marijuana retailer called High North in Labrador City, Newfoundland. He said his suppliers did not grow enough plants and do not have enough packaging equipment.

The shortage threatens to undermine a major aim of legalisation: to tame an illegal marijuana trade estimated at 5.3 billion Canadian dollars (€3.5 billion) annually. Some angry consumers across the country have said they are returning to their illegal dealers. In Montreal, several pot smokers said their illegal dealers were taking advantage of the shortage by hawking home delivery services and lowering prices.

Retailers, consumers and the producers themselves say they are exasperated by the shortage. The unexpected explosion of demand for government-approved marijuana and the slow pace at which the federal government has licensed cannabis producers have been blamed, at least in part.

“We are building a new legal industry that wasn’t there three weeks ago, and we knew there would be problems,” said Mathieu Gaudreault, a spokesman for Quebec’s cannabis agency. He said demand had outstripped supply, while licensed producers had overestimated their capacity.

On Monday, New Brunswick became the latest province to confront a shortage as Cannabis NB, the provincial government agency charged with selling marijuana, temporarily closed half of its 20 stores, citing a production bottleneck. That followed the decision by Quebec’s provincial cannabis agency to shutter its 12 cannabis outlets three days a week until the supply can be replenished.

In Ontario, the government retailer received 150,000 orders in its first week of business and has been struggling to keep up with soaring demand. The problems have been exacerbated by a postal strike. “The government is just feeding the black market and our customers are going there,” said Tobin, the shopkeeper. “We are called High North. But legal weed is in such short supply that no one is getting high on it.” – New York Times