“Unfortunately, we’re sold out. Product won’t be available until further notice,” reads the sign outside the Yellowknife Liquor Shop.
Supplying the territory with cannabis has been a struggle since the second day of legalization and it’s obvious the GNWT wasn’t prepared.
But the territory isn’t alone. There have been shortages nationwide and the feds are struggling to issue enough licences to qualified producers who can meet stringent regulations and keep up with enormous demand for legalized cannabis products.
The shortage is likely to stretch into the new year, according to Todd Sasaki, a spokesperson for the Department of Finance.
The GNWT was shorted on its original 30 kg order of cannabis, receiving only six kg. Online orders were also stalled at the beginning of legalization, an issue that the department says is now fixed.
With shortages across the country there is no doubt that people are turning to previous connections – in the black market that the government is trying to curb – to get their hands on some product.
The feds should have been cultivating a relationship with the gray market to prepare for legalization. Ottawa should have considered legalizing dispensaries and online suppliers instead of shutting them down.
The lack of preparedness shows just how out of touch government is with the true market for cannabis.
Being caught off guard to this extent demonstrates there was inadequacy in consultation with the public and a gross misunderstanding of the actual number of people already buying and partaking in the drug.
Consultations took place prior to legalization between Nov. 21, 2017 and Jan. 20, 2018. The federal government website says bureaucrats summarized feedback from thousands of Canadians but it is apparent the consultation was not encompassing or reflective of cannabis users.
In its summary document on the Government of Canada website, it states there were 3,218 responses on the online portal, 450 written submissions, 192 participants in round tables in the four major centres of Canada: Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver; and 343 webinar participants. That means only about two per cent of the more than 15 million people aged 15 and older who have used cannabis in their lifetime – as a 2012 stats Canada release on cannabis use states – were actually engaged by Health Canada. Consider that some of the feedback came from licensed producers, the hemp industry, prospective licensees and current licensed dealers and that percentage grows even smaller.
If the whole purpose of legalization was to eliminate the black market, the government has done a poor job. There are four short months until retail locations other than liquor commission stores might be considered for a licence.
Let’s hope the feds – and the territorial government – do a much better job with that market than they have with legalization’s initial supply and demand.