Reality Check: Marijuana Shortages Will Plague First Year Or So Of Legalization

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Reality check: Marijuana shortages will plague first year or so of legalization. Cannabis intended for the medical marijuana market are shown at OrganiGram in Moncton, N.B. OrganiGram has been contracted to supply recreational pot to the New Brunswick market.

People who are hoping to celebrate Canada Day next year with a perfectly legal joint bought in a perfectly legal store are likely to be out of luck, industry experts say.

Canada’s licenced producers can’t come close to meeting the expected demand for recreational pot, and for the first year and a half or so of legalization, there won’t be enough to go around.

“I do think the supply issues are going to be that constrained here in the country, especially on Day 1.”

The problems are rooted in math and biology, and to a certain extent in bureaucracy.

Canada’s existing licenced producers ship about 20,000 kilograms of dried marijuana to medical customers a yearExpected national demand under recreational legalization is in the range of 650,000 kilograms a year, the Parliamentary Budget Officer pointed out in a report last fall. In the long run, supply will grow to meet demand, but in the short run, the PBO predicted shortages.

“In the event that somebody applies for a licence, the process can take up to two years before they’re approved by Health Canada to even start cultivation activity,” Prentice says. “Then they need to get the inventory to start cultivation, and the permitting for that can take a little while. Then you have cultivation time on top of that, plus the buildout of the facilities.”

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