Every cloud has a silver lining and the recent COVID-19 pandemic certainly proved that for many industries. While some businesses suffered the ill effects of shutdowns and restrictions, the cannabis industry certainly flourished during these uncertain times.
But will the legal cannabis market survive as our world begins to open up?
Experts seem to think so. With a new recreational dispensary opening up every day across the country, Canadians are certainly proving that they like their weed safe and legal.
- Legalized Cannabis and the Black Market
It’s no secret that the cannabis industry faced some stiff competition with the black market when marijuana was legalized in Canada in 2018. Even though Canadians could buy their cannabis products at a recreational cannabis dispensary, many still turned to the black market for their weed.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed all of that. Between April and June of 2020, the cannabis community spent 74% more money on licensed cannabis compared to the same period in 2019.
It seems this upswing in licensed marijuana sales may be contributed to the restrictions and caution surrounding the pandemic. People were more reluctant to go out and meet with their regular cannabis providers.
While this holds true for regular marijuana users, it’s possible that spending more time at home encouraged individuals to try cannabis products as a way to deal with the stress of isolation. The increase in stay-at-home orders may also have contributed to the increase in the sale of cannabis in 2020.
All told, the rise in the sale of cannabis has led to more and more licensed dispensaries opening across the country.
For instance, in the province of Ontario, there were zero brick-and-mortar stores on legalization day. However, the province currently has more than 180 licensed recreational cannabis dispensaries with a new cannabis store opening each month, even during the pandemic.
It seems that more and more people are taking advantage of having access to a safe and reliable product, purchased from individuals who are knowledgeable about the product and the suppliers.
- How do Cannabis Dispensaries Work?
With legal cannabis availability ever-increasing, Canadians have options when it comes to how they can purchase a variety of cannabis products:
- Government-Owned and Operated Dispensaries
Upon the legalization of marijuana in Canada, government-run retail shops were opened in most provinces and territories. Some are strictly owned by their respective provincial governments while others license the right to sell cannabis to privately run dispensaries.
When it comes to the role the Canadian government plays in how these dispensaries are regulated, the federal government allows for the in-person sale of cannabis as well as online sales from a licensed provider.
However, each provincial government is allowed to make individual amendments to the regulations, such as British Columbia’s choice to allow private cannabis stores to sell non-medical cannabis products online and for pickup in-store (previously, cannabis connoisseurs had to reserve products online and pay in person).
- Privately-Owned Dispensaries
Under Canada’s Cannabis Act (Bill C-45), individuals can open legal cannabis dispensaries that allow private retailers to cultivate and sell recreational cannabis.
Privately-owned dispensaries are controlled by provincial jurisdictions, so each province has a different way for licensed marijuana retailers to operate.
For instance, while you can order an array of cannabis products from government-owned stores and have them delivered to your home, most provinces will not allow this from privately-owned dispensaries.
During the pandemic, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario permitted private retailers to offer delivery and curbside pickups during various lock-downs. With delivery options no longer restricted to either medical dispensaries or the OCS, the cannabis delivery experience improved for many residents of Ontario.
For the first time, a cannabis enthusiast’s favorite recreational cannabis dispensary location became easily accessible and not an inconvenience. The widely accessible delivery options turned recreational dispensaries across the province into convenient shopping locations. Although this is the case in Ontario, Other provinces have different regulations. In Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia, you can have products purchased from a private retailer brought to your home via private delivery drivers.
- Online Dispensaries
In Canada, you also have the option of ordering your products through an online retailer and having them delivered to your home through the mail.
It’s important to note that you have to be extremely careful when ordering marijuana products online. Here are some things you should take into consideration:
- Is the Website Trustworthy? Because online cannabis retailers operate online, you can get a good sense of their legitimacy through their website. If the site is poorly designed, lacks information about return policies and privacy policies, and does not ask you to verify your age upon entering, it’s likely not a legal entity.
- Is the Product Legal? Legal cannabis products meet strict rules set by the federal and provincial governments. Buying illegal products can expose you to potential harms and legal consequences. Illegal retailers will often withhold information regarding their products such as their source and packaging processes.
- Do Their Products Feature an Excise Stamp? An excise stamp on the package guarantees that the product is produced according to the highest health and safety standards. It also indicates that the product contains accurate THC and CBD levels and no other substances.
When purchasing your cannabis products from an online retailer, it’s crucial to be careful and pay attention to who you are buying them from.
- Where Will Dispensaries Go From Here?
With an increase in legal cannabis availability, it seems that the sale of cannabis in Canada is only going to climb higher.
As more licensed producers come into play, more high-quality products will be produced, which will boost the cannabis industry and the economy.
This means that, even as vaccines are rolled out and the pandemic is over, people will have become accustomed to buying their weed legally. In the future, don’t be surprised if you see a new cannabis store in your neighborhood.
Buying high-quality and well-priced products, as well as the variety available and convenience of purchasing, may just spell doom for the black market. In fact, experts agree that it will be a long while before the black market is able to recapture a fraction of what it used to sell compared to legal cannabis stores, if at all.