Why cannabis users everywhere are noticing a dwindling local supply

Published Sep 19, 2020 12:00 p.m. ET
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The cannabis industry has been one of the most highly regulated and stifled businesses of all time, but that hasn’t stopped both recreational and medicinal consumers from getting their hands on some delicious green bud when the situation calls for it. Despite the many barriers and setbacks, the marijuana plant has become a lucrative staple thanks to high demand.

The selection in many areas might be lacking, but until recently, most cannabis users had no trouble finding pot products. Many users expected this sort of outcome as businesses shut down due to the pandemic, but now that the world is slowly reopening, times are getting tough for both the recreational and medicinal markets, as the product is running out at an unexpected rate.

This is leaving dispensaries in some countries like Canada with minimal selection, and others like that of Malta are reporting complete shortage situations that are leaving medical patients without filled prescriptions and stressed out citizens fewer options to unwind. It’s rough out there right now, but it’s not just one problem that’s causing this odd shortage of cannabis products. It’s a combination of unfortunate results, much of which is simply damage that COVID-19 has left in its wake.

1. Work stoppages

As the world shut down, a lot of businesses were forced to temporarily close up shop, and even though most regions deemed dispensaries to be an essential service, many were closed temporarily for the safety of their staff, and several producers made similar decisions. Of course, this wasn’t just the choice of the big companies, as demand for most non-essential goods plummeted, and long-haul shipments became a nightmare, it only made sense to reduce capacity and reproduction somewhere along the way.

In some places, there are tonnes of freshly grown products ready to go, but they can’t move across borders or into COVID-19 hotspots and that is reducing the number of goods that dispensaries are getting in each shipment. There isn’t necessarily a shortage of cannabis itself, so much as there is an absence of efficiency across the entire system, which stops what we do have from making it to waiting consumers.

2. A steady increase in demand

As the benefits of smoking weed become more common knowledge and better understood, we see demand for marijuana plant products shoot through the roof. We also have more people staying at home, which is leaving them with more free time to toke, and we’re living under some of the most unique and stressful times that any of us have witnessed in our lives, a transition that has brought health to the forefront of all of our minds.

On top of all that, accessibility has greatly improved since the arrival of COVID-19 which was just enough of a push to level the playing field between legal and illegal supplies all over the world. It seems that once cannabis users realized that they could get safe and discreet service without necessarily having to visit their local dispensary, they were more than happy to pay a little bit more for legal products, and that has stressed the legal market in a way that was unexpected, contributing to weed shortages.

3. Imports and exports have slowed

Every country has its own set of rules when it comes to the importing or exporting of cannabis products, but now that COVID-19 has shuttered major borders and grounded international flights, it’s a whole lot harder to get anything moved a fair distance. This has left large shipments sitting and waiting, ready for consumers who are just out of reach, and it’s contributing to the mass shortage of products that we’re seeing on both the recreational and medicinal markets right now.


4. Approval of new cannabis products and stores are difficult

Access has only recently been improving for cannabis users in legal regions, and this issue is one that was supposed to be fixed entirely once there was finally enough stores and products out there to suit every need, but the pandemic put a halt on much of that. Many countries stopped approving new products or store licenses for several months, and only a few have resumed this process leaving thousands of store owners and producers waiting for permission to move forward.

We have figured out ways around this using technology, as virtual approvals for site locations and online meetings about applications for cannabis products are quickly becoming the norm, but not everyone is comfortable or familiar with this method of communication, and after months of not processing applications, most countries are lagging, discouraging new interested investors who aren’t impressed with the lack of progress and keeping hot new choices off legal store shelves.

5. It’s the end of the growing season

Many cannabis enthusiasts expected the legal industry to flounder, especially during trying times such as these, which is a major part of why so many people stocked up in March when the threat of dispensaries closing loomed overhead, but few could have anticipated a shortage of cannabis products on the black market as well. Truthfully, the black market is normally running low at this time of the year, as most who are growing marijuana are only weeks away from a successful harvest.

This is a problem that will be remedied soon, but the reality is that it will still be a few months before most outdoor growers have crops that are cured and prepared for consumption or sale. Though black-market dealers are notorious for massive fields of growing marijuana plants, they too are businessmen that must predict need through average demand, something that has grown as society has settled on a broader acceptance.

A broader acceptance

We aren’t really sure if it’s the stress of 2020, knowing the benefits of smoking weed or sheer exposure, but the statistics show that people, in general, are becoming far more accepting of the idea of cannabis having a stable place within our society, which is why so many more people are using it. That’s a good thing, but for now, it’s just another thing that’s contributing to the cannabis shortages that are seen all over the world.

The rundown on the Canadian cannabis shortages


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