Canada officially becomes the second nation in the world to fully legalize marijuana
On October 17, Canada officially become the second nation in the world to fully legalize marijuana.
However, the much-anticipated legalization day has proven to be more than a bit anti-climactic. Supply of legal cannabis across Canada has not been able to catch up with the demand. In a press- release, a spokesperson for the NSLC said “The supply challenges are being experienced nationwide and are not exclusive to Nova Scotia.” British Columbia, long notorious for its unauthorized dispensaries and illicit supply of marijuana, has only one sanctioned storefront. Government run cannabis retailers in Quebec shut down for three days this week due to a lack of product. In the other provinces, the situation is more-or-less the same.
The supply issue can be traced to bureaucracy. Red tape and legal hurdles are making the processing of marijuana producers and dispensaries painstakingly slow. All would-be producers and sellers of cannabis, whether government owned or private, must apply for registration with Health Canada. As of Friday, November 2, only 132 producers and 78 retailers have been approved. In addition, many of the currently licensed retailers are small storefronts. In an attempt to keep up with the applications, Health Canada has hired 300 additional staff members for evaluating producers.
In one example of the process, CTV News found that a producer in Ontario, FSD Pharma Inc, was approved to grow marijuana one year ago, but they are still waiting for a license to sell today.
In Ontario, physical locations will not be open until April at the earliest, meaning sales of cannabis are being handled online by the Ontario Cannabis Store website. In addition to a supply shortage, the current strike by workers at Canada Post is making even delivery problematic.
Perhaps, some shortages are reasonable to expect. A spokeswoman for Health Canada, Tammy Jarbeau added to the discussion, “As with any new industry where there is considerable consumer demand, we expect there may be periods where inventories of some products run low or, in some cases, run out,” Certainly though, a simplification of the process would help ensure inventories don’t run out as often. The federal government is reportedly working on doing that.
In Nova Scotia, it’s worth noting too that the packaging of marijuana sales in the NSLC’s Cannabis section is excessive. Cannabis is sold in plastic jars inside cardboard boxes, and often the plastic containers are have more than ample space. For example, a sale of three and a half grams is given out with enough space in the container to comfortably fit seven or more grams. Shoppers looking for a green solution would probably like to see a dispensary that allows customers to use reusable containers. However, Health Canada has the final say, requiring marijuana “be packaged in an immediate container that is tamper-evident, child-resistant, prevents contamination and keeps cannabis dry.” As per regulation, cannabis sales must also include Health Canada produced health and safety documents. So, it seems the NSLC’s hands may be tied here.
While we can all respect the need to keep drugs out of the hands of children and assurances that users of a drug are well informed, the regulations seem inconsistent. Why would cannabis need to be so heavily protected, when even hard liquor is not held to the same standards? No one was ever given health and safety information with a 40-ounce sale of vodka, nor does the government require it be sold in a child proof container. As Canadian society adapts to the new laws, perhaps this is liable to change.
Either way, since the new legal infrastructure has made it impossible for many consumers to satisfy their desires, it should come as no surprise that many are returning to black-market sources. Included in the new legislation is the ability to grow up to 4 plants per household. Those with the right setting to do so may take to growing their own, but that’s not likely to help anyone in the short term.
Hopefully, as Health Canada approves more producers, the short supply proves short lived - only time will tell.