Illegal cannabis market still thriving in Canada two years after legalization

OTTAWA — It’s been two years since Canada legalized recreational marijuana, but the illegal market is still thriving.

About 40 per cent of the cannabis market share in Canada is still held by illegal producers, according to Omar Khan, the national cannabis sector lead at Hill and Knowlton Strategies.

He said the majority of regular users — people who use daily or every other day — still get their marijuana through the illicit market.


Khan added one of the reasons is because legal stores in places such as Ontario and British Columbia are forced to buy wholesale and not directly from the cannabis producers.

“I think that’s an interesting approach. It allows a lot of the retailers to be a lot more price competitive with the illicit market,” he said.

In Canada, 9,000 people work in legal production and retail sales in the cannabis industry, which is more people than employed by General Motors in Canada.

Combined, the illegal and legal market is worth about $8 billion a year in Canada.

The Cannabis Act was passed by the House of Commons on Oct. 17, 2018. Under the act, people 18 or older are allowed to possess up to 30 grams of dried legal cannabis and grow up to four plants for personal use.

A year ago, chocolate, gummies, sparkling drinks, and products such as hand creams became available at cannabis stores in B.C.

In July, a poll found more B.C. residents are buying cannabis just from licensed retailers compared to last year.

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