Reducing the Supply Shortage of Cannabis, Post-Legalization

October 16, 2017

There are many predictions of a chronic cannabis shortage when it is legalized. No matter how smooth the provincial governments pave the way, it all ends with out-of-stock producers holding up the line.

There are measures that could help alleviate the shortage, namely legal personal growers who are licensed under the ACMPR. You are supposed to only grow enough for your own needs, based on a per gram a day limit. Each gram translates into 5 plants.

Someone who is prescribed 5 or 10 grams a day can grow 25 or 50 plants respectively. For the majority of patients, that works out fine, but for others, they may find themselves with excess due to changing circumstances. A patient may endure a lengthy hospital stay and has cut down on usage unless they are savvy enough to make oil. They would be classified as short term growers. Other patients may pass away before their crop is harvested, or have some stored and no longer need it. They would be classified as a one time grower.

If these growers were to pay to have their crop tested, submit a video of their set up and other paperwork to satisfy regulators, those certified with a clean bill of health would be issued an information sheet with identifiers to track the product through the retail system. It would also provide all the profile information that consumers read on any cannabis product. This would allow ACMPR growers to sell to the federal government under the “Local Grown” label to differentiate it from the usual legal supply. This label would become synonymous with small batch personal growers, the same type of choice offered to consumers at farmers markets.

They would be taxed on the profit they make so the government would get their cut, it would be clean, and in the best interest of public health. A win win, though it still will not be enough to adress the shortages, every bit helps.

The regulations around entry into this market can not be too onerous as it will mainly apply to short term, or one time, growers. This keeps in the spirit of protecting public health and is the best alternative to the illegal market which will continue to thrive in the face of shortages.

There are many who will oppose this concept on the grounds that it will just encourage personal growers to grow more to supply the market. The fact is some are doing that already, but it is fed to the illegal market where it is not taxed, tested or subject to any other requirements. For those short term or one time growers who have excess supply, getting rid of it is no problem as things stand now.

Basically the same cannabis is going to hit the market through one system or another. If the government sanctions “Local Grown”, consumers will have confidence the government is protecting their health and teens will be denied access. The only cannabis in the illegal market will be untested and unlabeled and shunned by consumers who are given a choice.

If the government does not take this option, the illegal market will become more entrenched, especially in places like Alberta where consumers never had dispensaries, and always relied on the illegal market to supply them.

The Federal government could also loosen the strings around distribution and allow the provinces to make the decision as to whether to intake and distribute “Local Grown”.

If the government is truly trying to reduce or eliminate the illegal market, they must keep a steady supply of cannabis going through the system by finding ways to fill the gaps until enough product is grown to supply the market. Using some of the 6,880 ACMPR growers to help fill the supply chain is worth a look.

Debra Harper

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