Weed became available for purchase in stores and online on October 17, and since then, Canadians are racking up the purchases with moose-sized enthusiasm. Shopify, the e-commerce provider of software used for online cannabis sales in some provinces, said that on the first day, Canadians were placing orders online at the rate of more than 100 per minute.
Now nearly a month in, shortages are becoming more widespread. The New York Times reports that at least three provinces—New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec—are facing shortages so severe that some retail outlets are temporarily shutting down. In Montreal, unregulated cannabis procurement specialist (AKA weed dealers) are capitalizing on the shortfall by lowering prices and offering home delivery. The Ontario Cannabis Store, a government-run retailer, reported more than 150,000 orders in their first week. In Quebec, the 12 government-run dispensaries have been ordered to close three days a week until supplies can be replenished. In New Brunswick, half of the 20 government-run dispensaries were ordered closed due to supply shortages.
Part of the problem is the number of licensed producers. 132 companies have been approved to grow and sell cannabis to retailers, but currently only 78 of those have received a sales license to do so.
Labor is also an issue. Ontario-based cannabis grower Aphria was moved to destroy 13,642 plants after being unable to find the qualified staff to harvest them. (Sniff—RIP, 13,642 cannabis plants that would have made at least 26,000 Canadians happy and high.)
This is only a temporary matter, however, and perhaps best summed up by André Gagnon, a spokesman for Health Canada. Per the New York Times:
[Gagnon] said that Oct. 17 “marked the end of nearly a century of criminal prohibition of cannabis and the launch of an entirely new regulated industry in our country.”
“As with any new industry where there is considerable consumer demand, we expect there may be periods where inventories of some products run low or, in some cases, run out,” he said in a statement.
Given that marijuana had been illegal for so long, he added, the government didn’t have a reliable benchmark to know which products would be in high demand or to be able to estimate the demand level.