Few in the cannabis community would argue the fact that one of the biggest stories in the movement in the last 5 years was the legalization of adult-use marijuana in Canada. The first large, developed country to legalize on a federal level, Canada was poised to set the tone for legalization around the world.
But, as I feared, Canada’s government has created an industry that is so restricted it has no hope of competing with the black market. Restrictions have created supply issues which have, in turn, kept prices high.
This is an issue I have addressed several times on our video news show Cannabis News, and it’s an issue that stems from two major problems with implementing legalization. Many lawmakers, politicians and bureaucrats hold the belief that cannabis is a dangerous substance that must be restricted and regulated, and plans need to be made for every possible contingency, even ones that could never come to be. This causes them to be overly cautious, often to the point that they cripple the legal industry before it can even get off the ground.
The second problem is that not enough lawmakers, politicians and bureaucrats believe that the more choice cannabis consumers have, the better the legal industry will function and the sooner the black market will be undercut and crippled. More supply leads to more choice for consumers which leads to lower prices which leads to more consumers coming over to the legal industry.
Instead of treating cannabis like it’s something people need to be protected from, it should be treated like something people want to buy. And while the argument rages between those who think cannabis should be treated like poison and those who think it should be treated like lettuce, many of us would settle for it being treated like alcohol.
Sure, alcohol is regulated, but there are also at least a dozen places within 5 miles of my house where I can buy alcohol, and this doesn’t count bars. I can go to any Kroger grocery store and find dozens of different kinds of alcohol, all reasonably priced. I can have a bottle of Everclear in my hands in less than 15 minutes, no matter which direction I drive. I can buy several bottles of liquor and a few cases of beer and no one will give me a second look.
Canada’s legalization rollout suffers from these two problems, leaving supply in the country restricted and the black market wholly intact.
“NORML Canada’s view on legalization is that it is a huge step forward for Canadians,” Andy Lee, Communications Director for NORML Canada, told The Marijuana Times. “To be able to legally purchase and consume cannabis is a freedom Canadians should have been afforded all these years. The actual roll-out of legalization however is a different matter. The current legal framework has created a monopoly market that benefits large corporate Licensed Providers, and leaves little to no pathways for small cannabis entrepreneurs to become part of the legal market. Because of this, LP’s on their own are unable to meet supply/demand and offer competitive quality/pricing to effectively stamp out the illicit market.”
The key to legalization is allowing the maximum amount of participants. The lowest possible barriers for entry into the industry will maximize choice and supply and benefit every cannabis consumer. It will create the most jobs and the biggest possible economic impact while driving illegal dealers out of business.
As much as many hate to hear it, cannabis is a commodity, subject to all of the economic laws that affect every other commodity and service.
On the one-year anniversary of adult-use legalization in Canada, other forms of cannabis are supposed to be allowed for sale, but many are skeptical that rollout will be any smoother. “Regarding edibles, concentrates, and topicals slated for Oct 17th, 2019, many industry experts have predicted that there will be supply issues with demand far outstripping available product,” Andy told us. “This will mirror the initial rollout of legalization Oct 17th, 2018 with dried flower. The likelihood is that only a handful of LP’s will have product for sale come Oct 17th, but will be sold out immediately, for many months.”
The legal cannabis industry needs to be unleashed if it is to ever get a foothold, no matter what country we are talking about. Hopefully lawmakers in Canada learn that lesson before they do too much lasting damage to the industry’s ability to compete with the black market.