Cannabis retailers in Canada began to run low on supplies from the very first day of legalization a month ago. James Burns was confident his company had enough product on the shelves of its five new cannabis retail stores. Now, he has had staff refreshing the government supply website in the early hours to snap up scarce new stock as soon as it’s available, and is considering restricting store hours. “While there was product to order we were very comfortably getting a large amount of it,” says Burns, the CEO of Alcanna, a company that owns a chain of private liquor stores in Canada and the US and, now, cannabis stores in the province of Alberta.
Since the first day recreational cannabis was legalized in Canada, there have been shortages. Thomas Clarke was one of the very first retailers to sell the drug legally in Canada. Clarke says that he sold out that day and was out-of-stock for nearly a week. Clarke has since been able to get product onto shelves but says he can’t order exactly what he needs from the provincial supplier. In a statement, the provincial agency responsible for cannabis sales said that while it had ordered a full supply to stock its stores it received just 20% to 30% of that original order.
In Ontario, the online retail store has seen certain products sell out quickly followed by lengthy wait times for resupply. The Ontario Cannabis Store says it’s working to expand the assortment of products available and to ensure product availability. A report released in October by the CD Howe Institute estimates that the current legal supply will meet about 30% -60% of total demand in the first months of legalisation.
But people in the industry say the scarcity is worse than expected. Many predict it will be a year to 18 months before supply matches demand. Health Canada, which grants licenses to cannabis producers, says it worked hard in the months prior to legalization to increase the number of legal suppliers, and is urging patience. “It is important to note that October 17 marked the end of nearly a century of criminal prohibition of cannabis and the launch of an entirely new regulated industry in our country,” it said in a statement.
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