On October 17, the day on which the legalization of the recreational marijuana it came into force in Glen, the images of hundreds of people queuing to acquire the herb went around the world. The rows are already shorter, although the postcard that best describes the current situation is that of shelves in authorized stores: most of them are empty.
Renaud is 28 years old and is a few meters away from entering a branch that the Quebecois Cannabis Society (SQDC) has in Saint-Hubert street in Montreal. "I hope to have better luck here. All the merchandise was sold out in the store on Sainte-Catherine Street. I am disappointed by this lack of foresight, "he says. Ten minutes later, Renaud can only choose between three types of product (out of 68 in the catalog): an oral spray, a bottle of sativa marijuana from the Atlantic Power brand and another container of Indica grown from the Hexo company. On the other hand, 70% of the wide cannabis variety in the SQDC web store carries a message: "product sold out".
The problems of supplying legal marijuana have not only been registered in the province of Quebec. In Manitoba, just one day after the entry into force of the legalization, the Society of Alcohol and Lottery - the body that controls the sale of the herb - announced that one of its branches had already run out of products and, similarly, stressed that similar situations could occur during the next six months. In New Brunswick, another store had to stop operations last Saturday. In that province the majority of oils, pills and bundled cigarettes were exhausted in two days, something that has also happened in almost the whole country.
Ontario, the most populated province, has only online sales service, but a good part of the clientele has complained about the lack of supply of products. The same has happened in British Columbia.
Several factors explain supply problems. Most companies that received a government license to grow recreational marijuana were already producing the therapeutic use. However, only 10% of Canadians use cannabis for medicinal purposes. The cultivation cycles can not be accelerated and, in turn, the firms had to comply with a series of measures of a law that was proposed, approved and put into operation in only a year and a half.
Vic Neufeld, CEO of the company Aphria, said there would be shortages of several products for "some time." The law stipulates that only grass grown in Canada and by authorized firms can be sold. "We have an obligation to deal only with companies that have obtained the approval of the Ministry of Health of Canada and the financial organizations," affirms Mathieu Gaudreault, a spokesperson for the SQDC.
Some production companies and sales companies have acknowledged that the initial demand exceeded their calculations, but they assure that the situation will be under control with the passage of time. "The success was greater than we anticipated. It's not something we can change overnight, but I'm confident that in the not too distant future things will get back to normal, "Kaleigh Miller, spokeswoman for the Alberta Games, Spirits and Cannabis Commission, told CBC.
Isabelle Robillard, communications director of the production company Hexo, told the newspaper The Presse that the demand was three times greater than expected during the first days of legalization. However, he said that his firm continues to replenish the establishments and that a period of adaptation is normal in this new scenario. In July 2017, the state of Nevada experienced a similar situation, as authorities underestimated purchases in authorized stores when the sale and use of cannabis began legally.
"We must bear in mind that there was an effect of curiosity and novelty among a sector of the population. As the days go by, we will see that the number of people in the establishments will continue to decrease, "says Mathieu Gaudreault, of the SQDC. On Wednesday, the Quebec state company published in a statement the results of its first week of operations: made 138,150 transactions (both online and in stores). In the document, the SQDC took the opportunity to underline that the shortcomings were due to no fault of their own: "The supply of suppliers and the production cycle limits cause, as expected, a shortage of our products".
Meanwhile, the federal government expects problems with supply to be gradually resolved. Bill Blair, minister of border security and organized crime reduction, told CBC that he trusts the current production system for its infrastructure and projects. Many of the firms that grow the herb received a considerable injection of capital in recent months. In any case, the Ministry of Health of Canada It studies dozens of applications to grant new cultivation permits. Time is advancing and consumers can get impatient. In addition, the government coffers risk leaking hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. Also, the difficulties in the supply are good news for criminal groups, an issue already confirmed by Uruguayans.
At the exit of the SQDC branch of Saint-Hubert street, Christopher, an employee of a computer firm, shows the marijuana he acquired. "I think you have to be patient. The legalization takes just a few days, so it is normal that these supply problems exist, "he says. Christopher got the herb for 10 years through a person from his neighborhood, but says it will not be like that anymore. "I prefer to buy it in legal stores so that profits are invested in services," he adds.