Last April, Canada announced plans to legalize recreational marijuana. A year later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled the legislation, which lets people grow up to four cannabis plants each, makes smoking illegal under 18, imposes stricter punishments for driving under the influence, and punishes selling marijuana to minors with as many as 14 years in prison, Bloomberg reports. The goal is to put the plan into action by 2018. But there's still one major obstacle in the way: a supply shortage.
Since one of the government's major motives for legalization is to get rid of the black market, it wants to make sure there's enough weed to replace it. And given the growing demand in the country, officials aren't confident that there is. "Ultimately the biggest problem that appears after today’s discussion is one of supply," Ontario Minister of Finance Charles Sousa told Bloomberg. "So we want to make certain that, when we do proceed, there is sufficient supply to accommodate the activity because what we’re trying to do is curb the illicit use and organized crime that now exists around it."
Canada's already experiencing a medical marijuana shortage, PI Financial analyst Jason Zandberg added. Some providers have had to stop selling certain strains and limit their clientele. But Zandberg isn't sure if postponing recreational legalization until there's a larger supply is the answer, because if the country waits until the next election cycle, they may never do it.
In order to speed up production, companies that grow cannabis are trying to increase their capacity, and Health Canada has promised to start accepting applications for marijuana growing licenses more quickly. But even if a bunch of people got licenses right this moment, the July 2018 deadline is looking tight, Cam Mingay, a senior partner at Cassels Brock, told Bloomberg. After all, he said, "you can’t force the plants to grow faster."