Health Canada Denies That There's A Nationwide Marijuana Shortage But Shelves Are Still Empty

What's really happening?
Health Canada Denies That There's A Nationwide Marijuana Shortage But Shelves Are Still Empty

Health Canada released statistics that may appear surprising to many: at the end of December, there were 128,000 kg of finished and unfinished cannabis in the inventories of licensed producers, retailers, and provincial distributors, along with 65,000 litres of cannabis oil.

This supply is, according to Tammy Jarbeau, senior spokeswoman for Health Canada, "nearly 18 times greater than monthly sales.” She continued by stating that "there is not — as some have suggested — a national shortage of supply of cannabis.”

Dispensaries are inclined to disagree. 

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Tl;DR Health Canada recently put out numbers which support their claims that there is no cannabis shortage in Canada. Recent complaints by dispensaries, many of which have shut down or cut their opening hours due to shortages, seem to go against this claim. Much of the gap between the two perspectives is due to supply-side problems that Canada has still not resolved.

Dispensaries across Canada are complaining that they are selling out faster than they can replenish stocks. In Quebec, the SQDC is only open four days a week because demand was so high they ran out of weed.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, one of six private dispensaries had to shut down due to low stock. New Brunswick announced that they were firing 60 of their provincial dispensaries workers. And Ontario has had to cap the number of privately-owned pot stores at 25, blaming the government for not making cannabis readily available.

How can we explain the gap between Health Canada's numbers and the reality of the many privately-and-publicly-owned stores that have had to cut back on staff and hours, or straight-up close?

Health Canada spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau blames supply chain difficulties for “localized and product-specific shortages,” but assures producers and suppliers that these will soon be resolved.

Some suppliers disagree. In an interview with the Calgary Herald, Chris Felgate, owner of a dispensary near Edmonton, accused the government of blaming producers for their own problems.

There are many logistical problems that lead to shortages and delays on the supply side. Allan Rewak, executive director of the Cannabis Council of Canada stated that one of the main culprits of this is the ability to affix federal excise stamps onto packaging. These stamps are not designed for automation, and stamping them on packages is time consuming.

Rewak goes on to mention that these numbers are skewed because they do not factor in the supply stresses skewed by consumer preference. Consumers prefer dried cannabis over oils and sprays, for example, and high-THC strains sell out faster than low-THC ones.

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There are many problems that still need to be resolved by the federal government in order to make dispensaries and cannabis-related business profitable.

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