When Canada’s full legalization law was still being debated, one of its opponents’ arguments was that people would use more marijuana, especially teenagers. Two years after legalization, however, researchers have seen nothing of the sort, says Michael Boudreau, a criminology professor at the University of St. Thomas.
About six per cent of Canadians use cannabis daily – the same percentage as before legalization. The proportion of 18- to 24-year-olds who use cannabis hasn’t changed, either – one in three still do.
But teenagers 15-17 years old began to smoke half as much – their number fell from 20 to 10 percent. Only older Canadians have started buying more marijuana.
Meanwhile, sales across the country are on the rise, with most orders being made online. In October 2020, a record 270 million dollars worth of cannabis was sold in Canada. Professor Boudreau sees marijuana as a way to relieve stress during a pandemic and lockdown.
Supply still far outstrips demand, so companies are taking losses
In the years before legalization, investors poured millions of dollars into infrastructure to grow cannabis on an industrial scale. By the end of last year, there were more than a billion grams of legal cannabis left in storage facilities across Canada that can’t be sold. Approximately 30 million grams are consumed every month in Canada. Producers were growing cannabis at a high rate even before stores were licensed to sell it and opened. Last year, they harvested about 360 million grams.
The fact that marijuana businesses are regulated differently in different Canadian provinces has also played a role. For example, in Alberta, license applications were accepted as early as March 2018, so cannabis stores opened quickly.
In Ontario, the most populous province, retail licenses were issued much more slowly. And sales here are regulated differently: the Ontario Government Cannabis Store (OCS) buys cannabis from licensed producers, sets the price of the product, and then sells it to private retailers.