As the newly legalized cannabis industry in Canada continues to suffer from inventory shortages, one expert says consumers shouldn't expect supply to improve any time soon.
Some 5 million kilograms of marijuana are needed to satisfy the demand for recreational cannabis in Canada, according to George Robinson - CEO of the cannabis production and consulting firm RavenQuest. But producers are growing less than 10 percent of that amount, so licensed retailers simply don't have enough cannabis to match consumer demand.
"We're absolutely not getting anywhere close to the supply," Robinson told CTV. "I think it's about 400,000 kilos that [cannabis cultivators] are producing right now."
Even though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he's confident the supply issues should be cleared up within a year, Robinson says it will likely take closer to five years before supply finally meets demand.
These supply shortages are starting to affect legal businesses in the country, too. Cannabis NB laid off 60 of their employees because the crown corporation wasn't able to get enough supply to meet initial sales goals. And a privately run shop in Newfoundland has decided to shut its doors after their inability to keep weed on the shelves crippled their business.
For some of the small business owners still trying to stick it out in the legal industry, the problems with the regulated industry have made them a laughing stock for illicit dealers as marijuana sales continue unabated on the black market.
"They laugh at me," said Thomas Clarke - who runs one of the cannabis stores that are still operating in Newfoundland. "They say, 'Ha ha, you don't got any cannabis in your store, you're only making seven-and-a-half per cent [profit]. In the meantime our business on the black market is thriving and we're making 100 percent [profit].'"
While Clarke's store is still receiving new stock, it certainly isn't coming in regularly and it doesn't last for more than a couple of days, he says. If the cannabis shortages really do last for the next five years, the legal market is going to have a difficult time repairing the damage done to its reputation by that time. Mom-and-pop shops across the country are likely to have the hardest time making it through until then.
So the sooner supply issues can be sorted out, the better for everyone.