Legalization: Keeping Consumers in the Ontario Black Market

by Emily Poster, Director of Canadian Content

On October 17, 2018, cannabis became legal in Canada and the Federal Government decided to leave it up to individual provinces to determine where cannabis may be sold. Ontario’s Doug Ford opted for a private dispensary model with government control of distribution, through the Ontario Cannabis Store. After the first week of legalization has come and gone it is obvious that Ontario was not ready for legalized cannabis.

Where to Buy Cannabis

As of 12:01 a.m. on October 17th the Ontario Cannabis Store’s online site went live, as there will be no brick and mortar stores until April 2019. The site asks you to confirm your birthdate, and that you are of legal age of consumption, before you can view cannabis products and when you finally see it, the site is boring and shows simple product packaging with no visible cannabis flowers. You end up trusting that the strain you are getting is as the package advertised. Ontarians do not have the luxury of browsing through dispensaries as of yet.

The Ontario Cannabis Store boasts a delivery time of 1-3 days (since changed to 1-5 days on the site) and a flat rate delivery fee of $5. It has been 6 days and I am still awaiting my order. So much for easily accessible cannabis in Ontario.

Sky-High Pricing

Once on the site, I was dejected to see the sky-high pricing of most strains. I am a Sativa girl and prices range from $10.05 per gram for White Shark up to $16.14 per gram for Critical Super Silver Haze and Blue Dream (of course I bought the most expensive one hoping to have my socks blown off). Most of the Sativas are priced in the $10.50 - $13.85 range.

Indicas start a bit cheaper at $8.40 per gram for B.E.C. up to $16.14 per gram for Pink Kush. Most Indica strains are priced between $12 and $14.

The Ontario Cannabis Store also offers pre-rolled, 1 gram joints for close to $20 per joint, almost double what your grey market dealer will charge you!

These prices are significantly higher than the grey market, with a gram typically going for $7 - $8. The strains are nothing special compared to what is seen on the street, and you are unable to view your bud before buying. The grey market doesn’t have week (or longer) shipping times and there is no fee for shipping your cannabis.

The Grey Market Lives On

Due to the sky-high prices of the Ontario Cannabis Store, the grey market will likely continue to thrive in Ontario. It will be interesting to see if the pricing changes when brick and mortar stores start popping up in April.

As for now, cannabis prices in Ontario are some of the highest in the country, being beat out only by New Brunswick and Alberta. The average price of one gram is $13.25.

One of the biggest goals of the Cannabis Act is to eliminate the grey market, but that is unlikely to happen with current pricing models. Ontario consumers will likely continue to source cannabis in the grey market.