Critics say Sticker Shock at Cannabis Prices Will Push Customers Back to the Black Market

Article by Dan Taekema, CBC News

Critics say sticker shock at cannabis prices will push customers back to the black market Social Sharing Facebook Twitter Reddit LinkedIn Statistics Canada says legal buyers paid $9.70 for cannabis compared to $6.51 on the black market Dan Taekema · CBC News Prices at legal cannabis outlets in Ontario are far higher than their illegal competition, raising questions about how they'll attract customers. (CBC) Gord Nichol shows off some of the products he bought inside RELM Cannabis Co., Burlington, one of the province's first legal pot shops. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Matt Daisley said his first visit to a legal cannabis retail outlet in St. Catharines, Ont. this week ended without a purchase after he heard the prices and almost had a heart attack.

“I knew immediately that I would not leave the black market,” he said. “There’s no chance.”

The 60-year-old is a longtime cannabis user and visited The Niagara Herbalist to check out its government-approved marijuana options after the store officially opened Monday. But, when he went up to the counter to buy 3.5 grams of MK Ultra, he said he was asked to pay $45 plus tax and was rocked by sticker shock.

His complaint about the comparatively high price of legal pot was a routinely heard one from customers during the first week of legal retail sales in the province.

The Ontario Cannabis Store says its products are priced to compete with the black market but critics, including a professor at Brock University, say buying illegally offers those willing to take the risk significant savings, meaning legal prices will have to drop if they want to bring in more customers and cut out the black market. Police have also pointed to affordable pricing as an important tool to combat organized crime’s involvement in the drug trade.

Daisley claims he could buy as much as seven grams of MK Ultra for about $40 from an illicit vendor online.

That’s what he plans to keep on doing, he told CBC News, adding the laws around black market weed and the consequences for purchasing it are still vague so he’s willing to go public about his concerns in hopes the government and retailers will listen.

“I’m making a conscious choice to use the black market rather as opposed to the legal market. I understand the ramifications of that,” he said. “[But] what can they really do to a 60-year-old guy who’s smoked for the better part of 25 years every day?”

The price has to be right to defeat organized crime

The laws around cannabis use in Canada are still evolving and need to be tested in court, so there’s “some validity” to Daisley’s point, according to Joe Couto, a spokesperson for the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.

He added police aren’t naive enough to think legalization means the black market will die overnight — especially if there’s a big price difference.

“I don’t know if the price is right,” he said, adding law enforcement officials have to trust the government to make those decisions.

“We’ve always recommended to them that if you don’t price the product at a market price obviously it does create pressures and black market activity.”

Read the full article here.

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