It was a heady time. Wide-eyed predictions and projections were being tossed about, there was angst about the many unknowns, and the coming social, political and economic impacts had the potential to change the way we as a Canadian society see ourselves. Or maybe nothing would happen at all. Only one thing was for certain: on October 17, 2018, Canada would become the first G20 country to legalize recreational cannabis.
On the one-year anniversary of legalization, let’s have a look at some of the things that did, and most certainly didn’t, happen over the past 12 months:
1. First off, Canadians didn’t stop buying black market weed. According to the most recent National Cannabis Survey, undertaken every three months by Statistics Canada, 42% of cannabis consumers reported purchasing at least some of their product from illegal sources. Which can be partly explained since…
2. Legal weed did get slightly cheaper, as predicted, but so did black market ganja. According to another recent survey, store-bought cannabis is retailing at an average $10.23 a gram, while the illicit stuff is going for $5.59 a gram. Also…
3. Provinces didn’t roll out retail opportunities equally. For example: Ontario, population 14 million and change, granted only 25 pot shop licences for the entire first year of legalization. Alberta, on the other hand, with a population of only 4 million, went whole hog and opened nearly 300 stores. (At the time of writing, 561 stores total were in operation across Canada.)
4. While legalization, and subsequent judicial rulings against unlicensed operations, did put a lot of grey market marijuana dispensaries down, they’re certainly not out. In Toronto, pot shop openings and closings became a never-ending game of whack-a-mole in 2019, with new dispensaries popping up as fast as the city could close them.
5. Media outlets didn’t get tired of referring to the emergence of cannabis commerce as a “budding industry.”
6. Nearly all the major cannabis companies didn’t stop hemorrhaging money, with sales failing to meet investor expectations. It’s a scenario rife with the same problems (i.e., over-promising and under-delivering) that have led to a number of other major IPO fails this year, including Peloton, WeWork and Uber.
7. But some folks did make money off of pot producers’ misery: short sellers. In fact, the 20 most-shorted cannabis stocks generated over $1.1 billion (U.S.) in the third quarter of 2019.
8. All of that said, Cannabis producers’ shaky credibility among investors did get a much-needed shot in the arm after Canopy Growth Corp., Canada’s largest cannabis company, recently topped the Toronto Stock Exchange’s first-ever list of the top 30 highest-performing stocks. The inaugural TSX30 listed Canopy Growth shares in first place with 1,823% appreciation over the past three years. Another cannabis producer, Aphria Inc., took sixth place on the list with a 479% increase.
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9. We didn’t show up for work high. (And that’s our story and we’re sticking to it.) A new study on the impact of cannabis in the workplace has found that most Canadians believe that recreational cannabis has had no impact on productivity (74%), absenteeism (71%) or quality of work (70%). However…
10. A ferry worker on Prince Edward Island did accidentally eat a cannabis edible while on the job. The worker ended up fine (though no word on their productivity).
11. Montreal didn’t become the new Amsterdam. Nor has anywhere else in Canada for that matter. In fact, cannabis tourism in the country is, for the time being, “virtually nonexistent” due to a number of factors including restrictive Canadian marketing rules and questions around the promotion of pot in other, international jurisdictions. (Although don’t tell that to Canadian Kush Tours.)
12. According to the aforementioned StatsCan survey, the use of edibles, oil cartridges, vape pens etc. didn’t supplant the tried-and-true doobie as the consumption method of choice: 68% of men and 62% of women still preferred smoking cannabis as opposed to other forms of ingestion. That may well change, however, when the sale of edibles (currently illegal in Canada) lands on the right side of the law on October 17, 2019.
13. Researchers tracking cannabis use in the general population by testing toilet wastewater found that Montreal and Halifax did top the list of Canadian cities that consume the most amount of pot per capita (while Vancouver, somehow, did not).
14. Governments didn’t make a killing getting into the weed-dealing business. In fact, in large part due to the continued irresistibility of black market marijuana and the mostly slow rollout of bricks-and-mortar stores, Canadian cannabis producers are only expected to sell about $1.1 billion (U.S.) worth of pot in the first year of legalization, far short of the several billion that some had projected.
15. And finally, despite fears to the contrary, the legalization of cannabis didn’t turn the streets of Canada’s major cities into a sprawling, never-ending Grateful Dead concert. Though the summer of 2019 might well be remembered for having had something of a fragrant, terpene-like tinge to it.
Further “cannabiz” reading:
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