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article imageCanada's hasty roll out of legal pot — Gift to the black market?

By Karen Graham     Nov 19, 2018 in Politics
Ottawa - Canada's roll out of its legal marijuana market has been a political victory for the Liberal government but with shortages of cannabis for sale at retailers — almost from day one — it has been a gift to illegal sellers.
One of the aims of the legalization of recreational marijuana was to eliminate the black market in Canada. The Liberal government wanted to remove the "criminal organizations, street gangs, and gun-runners" associated with the drug, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the 2015 election campaign.
Now that pot has been legal for one month in Canada, a new Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Global News has revealed that of the number of people purchasing pot in the past 30 days, fully 35 percent used their "pre-legalization sources."
Jennifer McLeod Macey, the vice-president with Ipsos says she is not sure if the poll results are a good or a bad trend at this point, saying it's “much ado about nothing." She adds, “It’s kind of like Y2K where we’re expecting this big change overnight and we haven’t seen it.”
But looking closely at what has been going on since October 17, the day marijuana became legal - it is fairly obvious the roll out did not go smoothly. On Day 2, retailers were turning folks away because they either were out of stock or some products had not been delivered yet.
One of the lucky Canadians who managed to buy marijuana on the first day of legalization at a cannab...
One of the lucky Canadians who managed to buy marijuana on the first day of legalization at a cannabis store in Quebec City, Quebec
Alice Chiche, AFP
Additionally, there were delivery mistakes, some provinces were slow at granting retail licenses, and the postal service's never-ending, and revolving strike that really messed up the delivery of pot products, just to name a few of the problems that popped up. However, Allan Rewak, the executive director with the Cannabis Council of Canada rightfully points out that legalization is a process, not an act.
“We are competing against very well established, very robust and very wealthy illicit marketplaces serving Canadians for almost a hundred years.” Rewak is pleased with the Ipsos poll results. The poll included 2,402 Canadians surveyed, who had tried to purchase or did purchase cannabis. What they actually got varied.
*28 percent used online, government-run websites
*28 percent used government-run stores
*22 percent visited licensed privately run stores
*16 percent shopped at a licensed privately run website
*35 percent just stuck with their old, non-government approved dealers
Rewak says the number of Canadians sticking to their black market dealers is actually less that he had thought it would be. “We thought this process would take more time,” he says.
Problems with the system
The biggest question on many people's minds is "will the kinks get worked out." Ian Dawkins, co-founder, and principal at Althing Consultancy, is not convinced things will get better. “It’s indicative of a much broader set of problems,” he says.
A week after Canada legalized cannabis  the country's Canada's pot shops have been forced ...
A week after Canada legalized cannabis, the country's Canada's pot shops have been forced to cut their opening hours as demand outstrips supply
A little over half of those surveyed by Ipsos said they thought the price of legal marijuana was too high. “I think you’ll always get a response that says it’s too expensive,” Rewak says, noting people are always inclined to say products they use recreationally, like cannabis and alcohol, are too expensive. “I don’t think you’ll ever see a poll that says, I think beers are too cheap.”
But the price factor could be a harbinger of problems to come. Dawkins cites Alberta - reminding people of the fights last week over tight supplies that forced regulators to change the rules.
It boils down to demand exceeding supply, and it is not just Alberta's problem, either. For this reason, many people think it will just get worse. The problem has also spread to marijuana edibles. People don't want to wait until the government legalizes edibles sometime in 2019.
“Those people are absolutely going to go back to the black market because they’re not going to sit around waiting,” Macey says. The Ipsos poll was conducted on behalf of Global News between Nov. 1 and Nov. 6, 2018, using a sample of 2,402 Canadians aged 18+ from the Ipsos I-Say panel and non-panel sources.
More about Canada, legal marijuana rollout, Shortages, Black market, onethird of pot buyers
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