Even before the first week of legal cannabis sales in Canada was over, supply shortage was apparent.
Even on the first day, the signs were telling: long queues of customers waiting for their turn at the counter and websites lagging due to swamped online orders. The government and licensed suppliers already feared that cannabis supply was not going to last.
What a shortage in cannabis supply means
Running out of cannabis products may not be a big deal to non-users. In fact, for some people, it just means that users will have to do without their regular fix of high.
Surely, people who use cannabis recreationally can just skip the party, right? Wait until stores restock their shelves?
Not really. Especially if the black market still exists.
Recreational cannabis users may turn to the illegal market to get their fix. And this could become problematic in the long run if users find that:
- illegal pot is a lot cheaper and they could get more from their money
- illegal pot is more readily available than the ones sold in licensed retail stores
- they can get pot from illegal sellers and nobody can tell the difference since the stuff’s legal anyway.
What about medical cannabis?
What many people do not see, however, is that supply shortage may cause a bigger problem for sick people who rely on cannabis for medical treatment.
Medical cannabis patients are the ones hit in a far worse way when supplies run out.
James O’Hara of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana told CBC News that it is actually more than just a supply issue. It is really a health crisis now, he said.
O’Hara added that Canadians with medical cannabis prescriptions for their anxiety, seizures, and other health problems are writing to his patient advocacy group. These patients are telling them about the “out of stock” signs put up at their regular provider’s retail store or website.
Unfortunately, O’Hara pointed out, the government has not set up regulations that would guarantee supply for the medical market.
Patients speak out in frustration
Bryan Wakefield, from Thunder Bay, Ont., shared with CBC that he has been unable to place an order for medical cannabis for three weeks. He uses marijuana to manage his borderline personality disorder and his ADHD.
Dan Goulet, from Kitchener, Ont., suffers from digestive disorder and shared how the shortage affected him. He has been unable to take his medicine for two weeks and is experiencing bad health effects because of it.
The irony is that Goulet already works for a cannabis producer and he still couldn’t get pot for himself.
Where did all the medical cannabis go?
Does this mean that licensed medical cannabis producers are also offering their supply to the recreational market?
While many medical pot users suspect this to be the case, the Cannabis Council of Canada said that it’s actually the opposite. The council represents 85 percent of cultivators and medical pot suppliers in the country.
According to CCC’s director, Allan Rewak, recreational cannabis is actually the one being repackaged and reallocated in order to meet medical demand first.
Rewak said that the problems with medical cannabis supply resulted from a combination of factors. For one, demand for medical pot rose before October 17, and this could be due to concerns from some patients that recreational consumers would deplete the inventory. Many of these patients stocked up on their medical pot supply, which actually caused inventory to be depleted.