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Price of getting high in Atlantic Canada rises post-legalization

Cannabis prices across the country have surged 17 per cent since legalization, according to new Statistics Canada figures.

Prior to legalization, the unweighted average price per gram of dried cannabis — which includes black market and medical pot — was $6.85 in 2018, based on the 19,443 submissions by Canadians. Post-legalization, the average price per gram was $8.04, 17.3 per cent higher than the pre-legalization price.

The data comes from an online crowdsourcing survey of Canadians dubbed StatsCannabis that marijuana users can visit at any time an enter data about their most recent pot purchase.

Information collected from Canadians also showed that legal cannabis users pay, on average $9.99 per gram, while those purchasing from illegal sources have paid an average of $6.37 per gram.

Kenneth Oliver, owner of The Herbal Centre — a legal cannabis retailer in St. John’s — said price is a common complaint from customers.

“People are definitely saying they can get it cheaper off their drug dealer ... I just bite my tongue and laugh honestly,” he told SaltWire.

Oliver added he thinks something needs to be done to make the legal market more competitive.

“If the government expects us to succeed like they think we should, the black market prices will have to go up or our prices will have to go down.”

Chris Enns, cannabis activist and owner of a Halifax-based medical cannabis resource centre called Farm Assist, called the situation “abhorrent.”

“We’ve moved into a legal framework of production and distribution, and yet the pricing structures are now higher than they were under a prohibition market,” he said.

The province that experienced the highest increase in prices since legalization was New Brunswick, where the price per gram went from $6.34 to $8.27, an increase of 30.5 per cent.

Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador saw price increases of 19.7 and 21.8 per cent respectively — from $7.29 to $8.73 per gram in Nova Scotia and $7.68 to $9.36 in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Because the StatsCannabis survey relies on voluntary input from Canadians, data from all provinces isn’t equal. While 59 entries have been received in Nova Scotia since legalization, New Brunswick only had 22 entries and Newfoundland 15.

P.E.I. was the outlier in the country with consumers only experiencing a five per cent increase in prices — from $7.32 to $7.69 a gram — however there have been only four purchases entered into the database since legalization.

“In Prince Edward Island, if one person didn’t pay very much, that skews the results a lot,” said Conrad Barber-Dueck, an economist with Statistics Canada.

It’s also worth noting that the sample sizes prior to legalization were much higher.

As for the price differences by source, according to the figures, consumers purchasing from an in-store government-licenced retailer paid $10.73 per gram, making this source of purchase the most expensive, and those buying online from provincial retailers paid slightly less, at $9.65 per gram.

Those who use cannabis more frequently also reported paying less per gram than those who only purchased it occasionally: daily users reported paying $7.55 per gram post-legalization while those who only used cannabis a few times a year paid $9.72.

Barber-Dueck said it’s not clear whether or not it’s just because individuals buying in bulk are paying less per gram, or because more frequent users might be more likely to continue purchasing from the black market due to the price difference.

Barber-Dueck said this kind of crowdsourced survey is new territory for Statistics Canada, and comes with its limitations.

“We know for a fact that we are kind of getting a biased sample here right because we can’t control who is going to answer this,” he said. “Generally people that are daily users are much more likely to go this website and complete this form ... that’s kind of the downside of what we’re doing. But the upside of it is that we get very timely data.”

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