Long-time cannabis community numb to pot shortage

More Like No Cannabis: The storefront of one of the first pot stores in Calgary on Nov. 19, 2018. Nova Cannabis struggled to maintain its stock over the first month after legalization. (Photo by Jake Cressy/The Press)

The Canada-wide pot shortage’s negative effects haven’t been felt by cannabis communities established before the Oct. 17 legalization.

It’s not a hidden secret that even before legalization we’ve had a large group of online resellers for marijuana, many of whom don’t require registration,” said Randall, a user who has not switched his source for cannabis.

The continued existence of these online resellers, along with more traditional street dealers,  means that the changes for these users after legalization have been mostly aesthetic.

“I’ve noticed that the packaging is now branded with the THC warning sign, and a label for whoever grew it instead of just the mail-order site now,” said Randall, who spoke on the condition his full name be withheld.

Consider Yourself Warned: Warning labels displayed on legally purchased cannabis in Calgary on Monday, Dec. 3, 2018. Users are seeing these new labels on products from the newly opened stores as well as from previously established online sources. (Photo by Jake Cressy/The Press)

Legalization was supposed to bring an increased focus on shutting down illegal operations for the police.

Although some operations have been shuttered, most dealers are maintaining their business and even benifitting from the new laws

“[My dealer] is fine. They’ve got even more strains now,” said Jay, who has not purchased legal cannabis yet. He also spoke on the condition he not be named.

Dealers like Jay’s even go so far as to put their product in properly labelled containers mirroring the practice of legal outlets.

The greatest deterrent to the legal cannabis market for regular users isn’t the lack of stock but the higher price point.

“I’m willing to overlook the increased cost for reliability, but when some stores charge $50 for an eighth (3.5 gram) when the average cost for a quarter (7 grams) is $60, it’s hard to justify that pricing,” said Randall.

High Price Low Variety: A menu of available cannabis in the Co-Op Cannabis store in Calgary on Nov. 19, 2018. Several products are no longer available to buy in one gram packages and entire strains are out of stock. The high price of certain strains is deterring users from switching to a legal source. (Photo by Jake Cressy/The Press)

Although some brands of cannabis are priced competitively with street market prices they tend to be of a lower quality.

Legal cannabis stores may not be getting business from established users but they don’t appear to be losing newer consumers to illegal sales.

Buying from a legal outlet is “the only way I can confirm I’m getting a high CBD strain because street weed is usually just really strong THC,” said recreational user Stephen Reynolds.

Reynolds doubts that he and others like him would turn to illegal sources even with a shortage going on.

“If people weren’t buying illegal weed already then there’s no reason for them to do it now.”

One of the most talked-about options for counteracting the shortage is to take advantage of the legal option to grow your own cannabis.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to try but only if I can find a way to store it without it smelling,” said Reynolds.

Current Alberta legislation allows for a maximum of four plants per household from legally purchased seeds.

No restrictions have been placed on how large the plants may be.

Many average users find themselves unable to take advantage of this option.

“My lack of gardening skills and current living situation make me unable to pursue that idea,” said Randall, who lives in a condo.

The growing of a quality plant requires proper equipment and considerable effort.

I don’t want kids jumping the fence and grabbing my buds. – Jay

Growing in your own backyard could lead to problems as well.

“I don’t want kids jumping the fence and grabbing my buds,” said Jay.

Industry insiders are speculating that the cannabis shortage could last for several years.

About David Cressy 2 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, David Cressy is working as a writer for The Press during the 2018-19 academic year.