Article by Michael Armstrong, Globe and Mail
Federal-provincial feuding over cannabis reignited last week. Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli complained of national product shortages. Meanwhile, federal Border Security Minister Bill Blair stood by his claim cannabis supplies are sufficient. In reality, Ottawa’s own data support Mr. Fedeli. But they also show supplies are finally improving.
Ontario is clearly short of cannabis, despite being six months into legalization. That’s why it’s initially licensing only 25 stores. And why it’s promising each one just 25 kilograms of product weekly.
Ontario’s shortage isn’t unique. Statistics Canada data show only one-fifth of national cannabis spending is legal. Even Canada Border Services Agency reportedly blames shortages for encouraging illegal imports.
Despite all that, Health Canada denies any national shortage. It instead tweets about increasing cannabis inventories and producer sites.
Mr. Blair’s stand as lead minister for Cannabis Act implementation is similar. On Apr. 10, his office again insisted cannabis supplies “exceed existing demand.”
Mr. Fedeli isn’t buying that. His budget on Apr. 11 blamed a “national supply shortage” for creating “widespread business uncertainty.” He later called Ottawa’s cannabis rollout a “failure” and “blunder.”
Those shortage criticisms are justified. Health Canada’s own data have consistently indicated large product shortages.
Consider the department’s February sales report. Combined recreational and medical sales of cannabis oil fell 9 per cent to 7,244 litres. Considering February is shorter than January, it’s plausible daily sales were effectively unchanged.
Meanwhile, estimated oil finished goods processing declined to 13,753 litres. That’s probably not concerning, as January processing had been unusually high. Ample inventories kept distributors well supplied.