Canada gets C-average grade on 2nd year of cannabis legalization

Employee Sophia Lovink shows off a bag of merchandise in Toronto on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

When it comes to cannabis legalization, Canada has some improving to do.

That’s according to the Cannabis Council of Canada’s annual report card, released on Oct. 17 to mark the country’s second “cannaversary.” According to the council, which is made up of Canada’s national producers, the federal government has garnered a C-average grade.

“Today is a historic day for Canada’s legal cannabis industry,” council president George Smitherman said in a statement, adding that the report card “celebrates our successes and reminds Canadians and our governments of the work that needs to be done to capitalize on the promise of legal adult-use cannabis.

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In particular, the federal government has done a fairly good job when it comes to supporting and leading cannabis legalization framework, keeping children and youth away from toking up and ensuring users don’t drive while high. For those issues, the council graded the feds with a B+.

But government has much to strive for when it comes to key barriers hindering optimal sales for those in the sector, the council says.

For one, the industry remains limited in its ability to advertise product to Canadians, negating consumer awareness.

Meanwhile, despite billions of dollars invested into jobs within the production and retail space, barriers to export cannabis have suppressed the sector’s full economic impact, the council said.

Most provinces continue to struggle with shrinking the price gap between recreational cannabis and the illicit market. According to Statistics Canada data, the average price per gram nationwide was $10.29 for legal cannabis in 2019, compared to $5.96 in the illicit market.

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“Uncompetitive pricing, namely due to excise taxation and wholesale markups, presents a barrier to further integration of the illicit market, the report card reads. “As a result, the legal market accounts for only 50.5 per cent of all cannabis-related spending country-wide.”

The implications of the illicit market are exacerbated within the medical cannabis sector where purchases are subject to an excise tax. This causes an affordability problem for those who need medical-grade cannabis, causing 60 per cent of patients to feel they must turn to the cheaper illicit alternatives, the council said.

The government also earned a ‘D’ grade for cannabis amnesty, with only three per cent of eligible Canadians being granted pardons for cannabis possession pre-legalization through the federal Cannabis Record Suspension Program.

And despite the federal task force for cannabis saying in its legalization report that research on cannabis was “needed urgently,” research study requirements and delays in officials issuing research licenses have caused Canada to drag its feet on much-needed global research.

“Increased funding, incentivization toward researching the benefits of cannabis instead of just the harms, and increased reliability and support on the part of the regulator would contribute to an improvement in this grade,” the council said.

The Cannabis Council of Canada relied on survey responses from 2,000 Canadians for its 2020 legalization report card.


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