When Canada launched its recreational marijuana market a few weeks ago, there were those analysts who predicted the nation would experience a bit of a weed shortage within the first year of operation. This was because no matter how hard the Canadian government worked to ramp up pot production over the summer, someone failed to consider that the product they were trying to stockpile was a plant that, even with the most sophisticated scientific advancements, will only grow so fast. So, within the first day or two of legal sales, cannabis shortages began sweeping the nation. What was supposed to take months to hit the fan had come much quicker.
Some members of the cannabis industry are blaming the inexperience of Canada’s licensed growers for this shortfall. Growers like Dan Sutton, owner of cannabis cultivation firm Tantalus Labs, argues that most of the businesses granted approval to grow weed came into the mess without any knowledge of how to do it. “Most of these guys they’ve been wearing pinstripe suits their whole career,” he told Vice News. “They’ve never spent any time on a farm and they don’t know sh*t about agriculture.”
Sutton believes most of Canada’s licensed producers subscribed to the “fake it till you make it” philosophy to scam bankers, regulators and other powers into thinking they were fit for the job. But they weren’t, to hear him tell it. “Most licensed producers still have no idea how to cultivate cannabis in a repeatable way,” he said, alluding that Canadian cannabis will also experience consistency issues.
Yet, Sutton’s assessment of the situation, which maintains that only those master growers who came from the black market and other agricultural sectors can do the job, is one of contention. A spokesperson for Canopy Growth Corporation, the largest cannabis cultivator across the globe, says many issues led to the cannabis shortage, but that it should all shake out in the next couple of months.
Whether it will or not remains to be seen.
Canadian cannabis consumers were primed to get a taste of the legal market when doors opened on October 17. Some of the latest financials show millions of dollars of weed flew off the shelves within a matter of days. But that, of course, has slowed down immensely now that many stores have depleted their surplus, and the pot supplies offered by the provinces through online services are not in any better shape. Stores are asking producers for more weed, but everyone is still waiting for plants to grow and crops to be tested. All of this takes time and most were not given any by the federal government. Earlier reports showed that some stores didn’t even receive the initial pot supply they ordered. Other are shutting down early or cut back hours because there is not enough pot available to make regular business hours worthwhile.
The most popular phrase in any given Canadian marijuana outlet (we’re no longer calling them dispensaries) is “out of stock,” and many people are confused how this could be. After all, the Canadians didn’t just start smoking weed once the government made it legal. They have been getting high for decades, and this loyal support has given way to a thriving $6 billion black market worth of cannabis. The irony is there is no real shortage of marijuana in the northern nation — only a shortage of the legal stuff. It is for this reason that early predictions of a weed shortage were accompanied by the message, “Don’t lose touch with your drug dealer just yet.” The black market is going to be alive and well for a while.
Some organized crime experts believe even once Canada gets its act together with the legal side, the black market will remain strong. Stephen Schneider, a criminologist at Saint Mary’s University, says there are many reasons it will continue. Privacy and price are two primary reasons, he says. Most Canadians are still not ready to admit to their friends and family that they smoke weed, so continuing to frequent the underground is the route many will choose to lean on for a minute. Not only that but they can get pot for several dollars cheaper than the licensed stores. But for now, the primary variable keeping the black market alive is the supply. Until all of the snags get worked out, Canadians may struggle to find legal weed from time to time for the next year.
TELL US, did you see this coming?