political | 11.20.2018

What you need to know about the weed shortage in Canada

Adrian Daniel Schramm


We know what you’re thinking. “They just legalized marijuana, didn't they? How can they possibly have run out already?”

On October 17, 2018, Canadians came out in full force to exercise their newly won freedom to purchase legal marijuana. Many of them were turned away, unable to partake in the festivities due to shortages. While Canadian officials were certainly expecting a large turnout for pot stores following legalization. What they weren't expecting was a full scale, Great-Depression-style bank run on all of their dispensaries.

Sorry folks: No more marijuana

Across the country, smokers of all kinds showed up at brick and mortar pot stores or logged in to the government-run websites to purchase weed. Not all of them, however, were able to actually get any. Stores had lines around the block when they had to inform customers that they had run out. Weed websites fared no better with frequent crashes and product outages within hours of opening.

According to The Independent, police were called to help shops struggling to handle long queues and assist with frustrated customers. At one dispensary in Montreal, officials announced that they were no longer accepting credit or debit cards for payment, which sparked a run on a nearby bank machine, causing yet another massive line.

What does this mean for the black market?

According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, eliminating the black market for weed is critical for the success of recreational pot in Canada. But he may have forgotten about the supply side of the equation. With many dispensaries completely tapped out, black market vendors are still likely moving tons of product.

John Matheson, a would-be customer of Canada’s regulated legal pot industry had this to say to Montreal Gazette concerning the weed shortage. “To me, this a complete failure of the management of this cannabis agency. They’ve known for some time that there was going to be some demand for this and to run out after one day in business is a sign of complete incompetence.”

Residents of Quebec waited for hours in lines to get into the stores but many were sent home without getting what they came for. Further, those who did get in found their options severely limited. Matheson concluded the debacle by saying, “For me, the score is: black market, 1; government, 0.”

If Prime Minister Trudeau wants to eliminate the black market for weed, he’s going to need to make sure that the legal market has enough supply.

But maybe this isn’t as bad as it sounds...

The Ontario Cannabis Store didn't paint quite so dire of a picture, saying that legalization has "resulted in a high volume of orders," but adding that deliveries should still be made within one to five business days.

Bill Blaire, a Canadian legislator, told Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), "we expected... certain strains might run out and there would be a bit of a run on supply," he said, adding that, “they've got a pretty good infrastructure in place and I'm confident it will work."

But it was still something of a disaster, as nothing like this happened when marijuana was made legal in Colorado, Washington, or California. Whatever the cause, the legal pot industry and Canadian government officials are working to make sure that this shortage of weed doesn’t plague Canada again.

For more on (now legal) recreational cannabis in Canada, read this article next: Can you fly with cannabis in Canada? Yep, you betcha!