The Legalization Issue: Why you might need your old dealer’s number to light up come October 17

There won’t be any bricks-and-mortar shops until April 1, and we’re still waiting to find out what the real consumption rules are

By the time October 17 was announced as the date of legalization, I had already booked a vacation to Mexico City. I had a tough decision to make: pay homage to the first day of the post-prohibition era in Canada, or witness, you know, incredible food, art and museums? 

But I realized that I’ll only be able to celebrate as much as anyone else – there won’t be any bricks-and-mortar shops until April 1, and we’re still waiting to find out what the real consumption rules are. 

Last week, Premier Doug Ford contradicted his party’s own legislation, saying that Ontarians likely won’t be allowed to enjoy cannabis in parks. That may complicate our first “legal” smoke-out at Trinity Bellwoods. 

And by then, grey market suppliers will be shut down completely. Dispensaries face fines of up to $250,000 a day come legalization. Attorney General Caroline Mulroney also warned budtenders that grey market dispensary work will bar entry into the legal market. 

So I guess unless I make some friends in Mexico, I won’t be lighting up October 17. And the rest of you will be trying to remember your old dealer’s number. But that’s the state of this very young industry. 

Nanaimo, BC-based cannabis cultivator Tilray made history in July when it became the first weed company to list on Nasdaq. The company reportedly raised $153 million (U.S.) in its initial public offering, a massive achievement for entrepreneurs grappling with uncertain variables like the stigma associated with a long-prohibited substance, evolving drug policy and a brand new legal marketplace.

Yet somehow, just one day after going public, Tilray ran out of cannabis.

“I was looking for indica and there was none,” recalls Jade, 36, who treats pain and insomnia from fibromyalgia, polycystic ovaries and migraines with cannabis. (She asked we use her first name only.) 

At the time, she was against buying product for medical purposes from a dispensary, and was registered with just one LP: Tilray. 

“There was nothing on the site. And I was like, ‘Okay, guys, now even your sativa users are screwed.”

It’s actually unfair to single out Tilray. As medical cannabis users navigating the federal government’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations can attest, most LPs’ shopping portals offer an inconsistent supply, making it extra difficult for those searching for anything specific. But a company with a share price of $139 (U.S.) and gargantuan market cap of $13 billion without product? Sheesh.

At the risk of sounding negative (which I’d argue is literally the only sane outlook in 2018 anyway), I suspect there will likely be problems supplying enough legal pot to the masses, particularly at the outset. 

Economists at CIBC, Deloitte and Mackie Research Capital have all predicted cannabis shortages of varying degrees. Because even though producers are flush with investor cash, it takes time to build those massive weed production facilities you see photos of all the time. 

That’s why I’m going to be logging onto the only legal source in this province for now – the Ontario Cannabis Store’s website. I want to have plenty of choice – hopefully not at the expense of the health of people like Jade. 

And I want to be able to buy a variety of products (one word, people – pre-rolls!) by different brands before it’s all picked over by my fellow fiends. I want to experience an introduction to what’s in store… whenever it arrives in my mailbox, which will hopefully be by the time I get home from Mexico City. 

As for Jade, she went without legal medicine for three weeks. Without pain relief and sleep, daily life was a nightmare, for herself, her family and her caregivers, she says. 

Eventually she was persuaded to go to a dispensary, and she’s now registered with new producers and plans to eventually grow her own – anything to have more options. | @nowtoronto

Brand Voices

NOW Magazine