By Chloe Aiello
As Canada battles a nationwide marijuana shortage, Massachusetts dispensaries opened to recreational users on Tuesday.
Regulatory bottlenecks and unforeseen demand have caused disruptions in Canada's marijuana supply ー but don't expect the trouble to cease next year.
Khurram Malik, CEO of cannabis supplier Biome Grow, said he expects current supply issues to resolve soon, but he anticipates disorder in Canadian cannabis well into 2019.
Next year "is going to be a period of intermittent supply issues. What I mean by intermittent is you may have your favorite strain available one day, but not potentially two or three weeks down the line, and you'll have to wait again for it," Malik told Cheddar on Tuesday.
"But it won't be a sky-is-falling scenario, like we're seeing right now, where you just have completely empty store shelves in a variety of provinces," he added.
Cannabis shortages across Canada have forced dispensaries to shutter only weeks out from recreational marijuana legalization. The shortages threaten to undermine legalization's aim of quashing the illegal drug trade, as some frustrated customers return to their black market dealers, The New York Times reported.
Unexpected demand has contributed to bare shelves across the country, but so too have functional issues and regulatory red tape.
Issues ranging from delays in sales permits to cultivation licensing to shortages in excise stamps and packaging have contributed to the problem, Malik said.
"The problem in Canada ... is it takes a while from a facility coming online to actually getting product out the door. There is a lot of regulatory things you have to jump through to prove you can actually start selling cannabis," Malik said. "We don't expect complete supply and demand to be sort of normalized until late 2019 or early 2020. Until then, you'll see these intermittent issues."
One day out, Massachusetts' adult use marijuana supply seems to be fine, but Boston.com reporter Nikolas DeCosta-Kilpa said there has been some worry about supply issues, as the dispensaries work to build up their inventories.
"In Massachusetts, at least initially, the retail stores that are going to get into the adult use marijuana business are existing medical marijuana dispensaries, and they legally have to keep a certain percentage ... of their inventory for their medical patients," DeCosta-Kilpa said.
Massachusetts became the first East Coast state to legalize recreational marijuana in the U.S. Customers over 21 waited up to three hours at a time to ride the Massachusetts green wave, which kicked off at the only two dispensaries currently licensed to sell. Cultivate in Leicester, Mass., served served more than 500 customers within the first two hours of recreational sales, according to Boston.com.
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