Canada has an unusual problem: There’s a shortage of legal marijuana.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is aiming to legalize marijuana in the country by July 2018, but there’s such a lack of marijuana supply that it may delay the whole program, according to a Bloomberg report.
The issue came up during a meeting of provincial and federal finance ministers earlier this week.
“Ultimately the biggest problem that appears after today’s discussion is one of supply,” Charles Sousa, Ontario’s finance minister told Bloomberg on Friday. Experts told the finance ministers during the meeting that demand for marijuana is “quite high,” Sousa said, “so we want to make certain that, when we do proceed, there is sufficient supply to accommodate the activity because what we’re trying to do is curb the illicit use and organized crime that now exists around it.”
Trudeau introduced legislation to legalize marijuana in April, with the goal of opening up a retail market by 2018. The bills stipulate that consumers be a minimum age of 18 to purchase marijuana, but leaves it up to the provinces to set up distribution and enforcement mechanisms.
Federal ministers in April emphasized that the goal of the legislation is to cut off the black market for marijuana. If the legally-grown supply is lacking, or the tax incentives are imbalanced, then illicit sellers could muscle in – despite federal legalization.
Jason Zandberg, an analyst at PI Financial, told Bloomberg that an initial shortage in the legal marijuana supply could be used “to push the date of recreational legalization back,” and there’s a chance “that it slips into the next election cycle and doesn’t actually happen.”