Canadians continue to buy cannabis illegally

Cannabis roots float underwater in an aquaponics grow operation
Cannabis roots float underwater in an aquaponics grow operation
Image: REUTERS/Carlos Osorio
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Nearly half of Canadian cannabis consumers purchase their weed illegally, reveals Statistics Canada’s National Cannabis Survey released Thursday (Aug. 15). Ten months after the country legalized recreational marijuana, 42% of those who partake admitted to buying at least some of their pot from an illegal source, such as a drug dealer.

Legalizing the drug has not yet eliminated the black market, in part because the number of legal shops is rising slowly. The federal government imposes onerous registration procedures on these shops; only recently has the government reassessed them in an attempt to ease the “licensing bottleneck.” Other would-be shop owners point out that it’s difficult to enter the legal market via what they say is an ‘unfair’ lottery system. The legal shops that do exist consistently fail to meet consumer demand.

In the last quarter of 2018, 79% of transactions were done on the black market, according to Statistics Canada.

The black market persists in part because the legal market offers little variety. Cannabis-infused food and drink are not yet legal. This leaves a significant gap in the market; edibles account for 43% of the total cannabis market in Colorado, California, and Oregon, for example.

Illegal cannabis is also, simply, cheaper. In July, the gap between legal and illegal weed was almost $5 a gram on average. Statistics Canada noted that 42% of users considered lowest price as a main factor when deciding to purchase cannabis. Still, most users (76%) considered quality and safety first.

One thing that legalization hasn’t altered: the number of Canadians smoking weed. According to the report, 16% of Canadians aged 15 and older reported using cannabis in the previous three months. This is unchanged from one year ago, before legalization.