Customers complain of low-quality legal weed in Ontario

Published Dec 24, 2020 01:00 p.m. ET
iStock / Yelena Rodriguez Mena

We’ve had two full years and then some to get this whole legal weed thing figured out in Ontario, and yet still, over 80% of all cannabis transactions are believed to take place outside of the licensed system. It is slightly surprising that it isn’t believed to be caused by the staggeringly high prices of quality cannabis on the legal market. Instead, many consumers claim that it’s because the black market simply had much better options.

Quality over quantity

Initially, most industry experts thought that consumers were flocking to the black market due to its incredibly low-priced illegal goods, but that doesn’t appear to be the case any longer, as most licensed dispensaries offer similar or lower-priced cannabis products. What they’re noticing now is that Ontario consumers are complaining about the quality of the weed that’s available on the legal market. Some have mould concerns and recalls, and others have taken issue with the lack of potency and excessive dryness of the flower in this region.

Why this is happening

According to cannabis store workers, managers and the staff at the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, consumers want illegal black-market products for three specific reasons, including potency, dryness, and selection. As it turns out, the long process of having the product thoroughly tested and approved for sale in this province makes it difficult for licensed producers to ship fresh quality cannabis. Instead, what they have is often old upon arrival, but that’s not all.

According to many dispensary owners, licensed producers do not have to include a best by or sell before date. Many don’t even offer a clue as to how long it’s been since the product was packaged, which makes it hard for both workers and owners to determine which boxes should be getting shipped out first. It’s a logistical nightmare that very likely contributes to the crusty dry buds that so many Ontarians are getting, and so far, these complaints have fallen on deaf ears.


Is anyone doing anything about it?

The main reason this recurring problem came to light is that the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has been actively investigating the reasoning behind this consumer behaviour to become more competitive with the black market. So, it seems like at least some attention is being given to the cause, but thus far, there doesn’t appear to be any plan or promise in place that might help fix it. Of course, that doesn’t mean that nothing will be done. It just suggests that it might be a while before we see any real amount of action to resolve this.

What will it take for consumers to make the switch?

No matter who you ask, the answer will always be pretty much the same. Suppose we want to improve upon our legal industry to make it more competitive to snuff out the black market. In that case, we’re going to have to offer up quality, consistency, and the strength of cannabis products that they can easily find through illegitimate venues. Until that happens, the illegal market will continue to thrive because it gives the people exactly what they want.

Ontario makes booze to go permanent while ignoring cannabis


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