Canada legalized medical marijuana at the federal level in 2001, a position that the US federal government has yet to adopt. Though the scale and scope of the Canadian medical cannabis program echoes what we've come to expect of US MMJ programs, differences exist. Some are more obvious, and some are less so. Let's talk about one of the similarities, as well as one of the departures. Let's talk about marijuana prices in Canada.
Defining Demand for Marijuana in Canada
In August 2017, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) released a report on cannabis use. When segmented into different, more digestible chunks of demographic information, trends just seem to jump off the page.
Not only does each Canadian province serve as a separate market with its own unique marijuana prices, each one reports a different rate of consumption among residents.
While this contributes to the overall number of Canadian residents who are estimated to use cannabis across the country each year, the number can vary by nearly 10% from coast to coast.
When measured in 2015, 12.3% of all Canadians age 15-64 had used cannabis products within the last twelve months. According to the Cannabis Stats Hub, hosted by government agency Statistics Canada, 44.5% of all Canadians age 15-64 had used marijuana within their lifetime. According to Statistics Canada’s 2016 population estimates, roughly two of every three Canadians is between age 15-64.
The recreational marijuana law, expected to be fully implemented by July 1st, 2018, will restrict marijuana sales to those 18 or older. Similar to alcohol, there is no restriction if a province ch0oses to raise the recreational age. In British Columbia, for instance, the drinking age is 19, whereas in neighboring Alberta, adults 18 and older can drink.
The Numbers Behind Demand & Marijuana Prices in Canada
In 2016, Canada had a total population of 35.2 million; here’s what we know about their primary demand for marijuana:
- Roughly 4.3 million Canadians have used marijuana in the past year<
- Nearly 15.7 million Canadians have used marijuana in their lifetime
- Given the recreational age limit of 18, as many as 28.2 million Canadian residents age 18 and older will be able to buy cannabis legally
- As many as 3.5 million of those able to buy marijuana under incoming legalization will have used cannabis products in the last twelve months
- Close to 12.5 million Canadian residents age 18 and older will have used marijuana in their lifetime
Regional differences among Canadians has an effect on marijuana use, though it is unclear for what reason.
As an example, the 2017 CCSA report mentioned above reports that, in British Columbia, marijuana use occurred in 17.3% of the population. In Quebec, where the population is over 40% larger than in British Columbia, use drops to 9.8% of the population. With such wide swings in demand across the country, marijuana prices in Canada are prone to fluctuate based on three factors:
- Status as a medical marijuana consumer
- Purchases on the illegal vs. legal market
- The geographic location of the purchase
Buyers‘ Experience in Vancouver
Having been to Vancouver, BC, several times, I can tell you from firsthand experience some of the marijuana prices I encountered over numerous trips from Colorado.
At the Cannabis Culture Dispensary, which accepts all individuals age 19 or older, an ample variety of cannabis products were available for purchase.
In most cases, you could expect to spend $5 per prerolled cone. CBD capsules cost between $3-$5 each. A gram of flower averaged $12, while an 1/8th cost $45-$50.
(Note: All prices are in Canadian currency.)
In addition to my anecdotal evidence from traveling, Statistics Canada has compiled a Marijuana Pricing Index, which provides a much more in-depth analysis of marijuana prices across Canada.
In Canada, Government Supplies Cannabis Data
Research shows, as a whole, Canada pays an average of $7.48 CAD per gram of freshly grown cannabis flower. Just as the rate of consumption by province affects demand, so does price. Here’s what we know:
- Marijuana prices fluctuate across Canada by as much as 35% per gram
- Price per gram in Canada has dropped by 18% since 2010, with various provinces achieving further pricing decline
- If measured using price per gram, medical marijuana in Canada is typically more expensive, though not by much
- In Manitoba, a gram costs an average of $6.65. In the Yukon, a gram of medical marijuana can cost as much as $10.47
- Across Canada, an estimated 773.3 tonnes of marijuana was purchased in 2017
- Roughly 94% of all spending on marijuana in Canada comes from adults 18-64
- Total spending on marijuana in 2017 was estimated to be nearly $5.75 billion
What to Expect to Pay for Non-Flower Products
Of course, not all cannabis products have to be consumed through the lungs. Eating baked goods, using transdermal patches, or consuming a tincture are among the wide array of cannabis consumption methods available on the market today.
Each form of cannabis product plays a role in maintaining Canada’s marijuana prices. There are capsules, hashish, shatters, resins, cones, dabs, vapes, waxes, oils, crystallines, rosins, budders, moisturizers, lubricants… and the list goes on.
Unlike with flower pricing, the Canadian government has not released data regarding the average price of cannabis-infused products, leaving the industry wide open to set the price.
In my own personal experience in Canada, I have purchased strain-specific hash oil cartridges for $45 CAD each. During the same trip, shatter grams were being sold for between $50-$70, THC-filled capsules were $3 each, and a 600 mg THC BHO tincture went for around $30.
It cannot be said with certainty whether marijuana prices across Canada will continue to lower, nor can we be sure they will stay low. Such is the status of the cannabis industry across North America. Marijuana prices in Canada may go up or down once cannabis legalization takes effect in July 2018, so stay tuned for more news to come.