A third of marijuana sales still black market: Canadian poll

A new poll in Canada shows that more than a third of cannabis buyers are still buying from black market sources a month after legalization.

Canada’s recreational marijuana market is off and running, and Canadian consumers are lining up for the chance to legally purchase the drug for recreational use. Well, that is about two-thirds of them. Just over a month into the program, a nationwide poll is showing that the remaining one-third of buyers continue to buy their stash from illegal sources.

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The two main incentives for a cannabis consumer to buy on the legal market rather than the black market are convenience and price. For many of these folks, either due to lack of access to legal pot or being turned away due to shortages, buying legal pot is still neither more convenient nor cheaper than obtaining it from their local dealer. And to make matters worse, not all products are available to legal buyers. For example, edibles and oils are not yet legal.

One of the top reasons for legalizing marijuana is to reduce black market sales. According to the survey, nearly three-quarters of Canadians tried to purchase or did purchase cannabis after legalization. Although two-thirds of those who purchased cannabis bought it legally, that still leaves a massive black market.

Of those who purchase legally, 28 percent ordered online from government-run websites. Another 28 percent purchased in government-run brick and mortar stores. Privately run shops accounted for 22 percent of sales while private websites accounted for 16 percent. That leaves 35 percent who purchased their goods on the black market.


What the numbers mean

The poll was conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Global News between November 1 and November 6, 2018, using a sample of 2,402 Canadians 18 years and older. And according to Jennifer McLeod Macey, vice-president of Ipsos, the debate over whether or not this is good news is much ado about nothing. “Only time will tell,” she said. “I don’t think the black market is totally going to disappear but it’s still early days.”

Allan Rewak, executive director of the Cannabis Council of Canada, is happy with the numbers. Rewak told Global News, “We are competing against very well established, very robust and very wealthy illicit marketplaces serving Canadians for almost a hundred years. We thought this process would take more time.”  

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Ian Dawkins, co-founder and principal at Althing Consultancy is not so optimistic. Dawkins points to the fact that although 58 percent of Canadians polled felt legal weed was convenient to purchase, 54 percent said that legal cannabis is too expensive. And, pointing to supply shortages he claims, “It’s indicative of a much broader set of problems… it’s just going to get worse.”

Rewak shrugs that question off. “I think you’ll always get a response that says it’s too expensive,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll ever see a poll that says, I think beers are too cheap.”

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