Reimagining legal weed in a time of COVID-19

The pandemic has given old-school types still scoring on the street a greater appreciation for the legal market

The pandemic has shone new light on the legal weed market.

0

Maybe it was a cannabis care package. It arrived just in time at my door to make the last couple of weeks before the rush to the reopening more bearable. 

A vape pen and a cartridge of cannabis concentrate to go with, three pre-rolls and a topical for more adventurous moments. Legal cannabis has come a long way. Sometimes that’s a little difficult to appreciate for us old-school types still scoring on the street, as it were. 

I prefer to do my business in the grey market – weed habits die hard. But not being able to score at my local during the pandemic – it’s one of the few remaining grey-market dispensaries in the city – has given me a greater appreciation for the legal market. 

Sales at the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), the province’s online retailer, have skyrocketed, tripling from some 2,000 daily orders to more than 6,000 after a state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic was declared in March. Those numbers exploded to some 13,000 orders a day in early April, after the province took cannabis retailers off the list of essential services. They’ve since been put back on that list to allow curbside pickup and delivery. OCS sales have been steady ever since at around 9,000 per day. Cannabis-industry analysts say the increase is not just a flash in the pan but a new baseline.

Cannabis 2.0 is a thing, after all. The rollout of legalization’s new supply of concentrates, edibles, and topicals was slow to start, with supply issues gunking up the works much like those first few months of legalization of flower. 

But the pandemic has given legal sales a big push, with the OCS looking to move to a bigger warehouse to accommodate expected future demand in the market. Cannabis is not just about flower anymore. And Ontarians seem to be discovering that in increasing numbers.

The illicit market still rules, accounting for more sales. But as more retailers open in Ontario (a number have been allowed to start doing business during the pandemic), that balance will start to shift as legal products find a wider footing where it matters most – closer to the peeps on the street.

Ontario represents about one-third of the potential cannabis market, yet there are fewer than 60 stores authorized to do business in the province. The good news is that hundreds of more applications were received by the government in March, when retail licences were opened to the wider public. The bad news is that will take some time to roll out. 

Price continues to be a stumbling block. Grey-market product is still selling for less – according to the latest stats, about half the $10 per gram of the legal market. 

But enough quality brands have entered the legal market now that, if you know what you’re looking for, getting a hold of good legal bud is no longer such a crapshoot. (48North, here’s looking at you.) There are still the horror stories of OCS shipping weed months past its best-before date, but they’ve been decidedly fewer.

Quality and choice in the legal trade are only going to get better when craft cannabis producers are allowed to enter the market in Ontario (the OCS is working on a framework as we speak), and Licensed Producers can begin offering farm-gate sales. 

Pot seeds are another growing area of opportunity for consumers. Admittedly, the selection is limited, but if the legal biz is going to change consciousness around bud, then there’s no better way than to appeal to those who appreciate the roots of the plant. In that vein, the OCS also has plans to start making clones available by next spring.

By the time this pandemic thing is over (or at least under control), we’ll have reimagined not only our relationship with weed, but the legal marketplace in it.

Leave your opinion for the editor...We read everything!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *