High Government Prices Pushing Canadians To Cannabis Black Market

Recreational cannabis stores in Saskatchewan are confirming what is widely assumed – that high prices for the legal drug are pushing people to the illegal black market.

According to Statistics Canada, marijuana users who buy their product legally are paying, on average, 57% more than those who buy the recreational drug illegally. Saskatoon pot stores say that a gram of cannabis on the black market in the city sells for $5 versus $18 a gram at legal, government licensed retail outlets.

Across Canada, $151.5 million of cannabis was sold from the date of legalization on October 17, 2018 through to the end of December. During that time, Saskatchewan cannabis stores sold just under $2.5 million of the product. In a recent survey, most cannabis store owners in Saskatoon said that long-time pot smokers are sticking with their old dealers.

Each province and territory across Canada has its own rules for cannabis, including the legal minimum age, where adults can buy it, where adults can use it and how much adults can possess.

In Saskatchewan, you have to be 19 years old to purchase cannabis products in stores or online. The provincial government used a lottery to determine who would be able to get the 51 cannabis retail store licences in the province. So far, only 22 of those licences have been issued by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA).

Stores awarded a licence must be operational within 12 months of legalization, or the SLGA said it will pass on the opportunity to the lottery runner up in that community. Once a permitted store is fully operational, the owner can sell the permit. In Saskatchewan, the only restrictions on who can buy existing permits are that the new owner has to meet the SLGA's permitting requirements and cannot hold more than 50% of permits in any one community.