Expect weed supply woes for next 6 months or more, says NLC
Demand outstripping supply across the country
Supply chain problems mean anyone looking to buy marijuana legally in Newfoundland and Labrador can expect at least another four to six months — minimum — of product shortages, says the province's cannabis regulator.
"Supply's been an issue from Day 1, and it's important to note this is not unique to Newfoundland and Labrador. This is happening across the country," said Peter Murphy, the chief merchandising officer at the NLC.
With dried flower the most in-demand product, Murphy says keeping it regularly stocked, on shelves and online, could be a problem for up to a year.
"The biggest thing is, be patient," he said.
"We don't know what the full demand is yet, because we haven't had enough supply to know how big this is going to be in the province."
The supply challenge is happening at the producer level, said Murphy. Seven producers in five provinces currently supply Newfoundland and Labrador, and it appears most are having a hard time with quality control.
All marijuana, once grown, must be certified by Health Canada and tested in a third-party laboratory, before being shipped to stores.
"We've had a couple suppliers who had crops that were supposed to be a certain THC level, and they didn't meet that THC level, so they had full crops that were ruined," Murphy told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.
Any quality issues then get compounded by skimpy amounts of extra bud.
"The problem is, as soon as everything is grown and packaged, it's shipped out. So there's no backlog of inventory there that they can be drawing from," he said.
Murphy said NLC staff are spending a lot of time on the phone, talking to individual stores in the province at least every other week to sort through problems, as well as daily calls to producers.
Homegrown high by summer
All legal cannabis is currently grown outside Newfoundland and Labrador, and Murphy said the first production facilities in this province are, at best, months away from opening.
Corner Brook's BeeHighve plant, which was the first Health Canada-certified plant in the province, is expected to be the first to open, by the summer, said Murphy.
Canopy Growth's large production facility under construction in St. John's should be open by the end of 2019, he said. That facility is contracted to produce 8,000 kilograms of cannabis in its first year of operation, and Murphy said such homegrown weed should greatly ease supply problems.
"We'll definitely hold our suppliers' feet to the fire when it comes to meeting the quota that the province will be owed," he said.
In the meantime, Murphy admits keeping people away from the black market is impossible.
"We would never want anyone to turn to the illicit market, but the unfortunate fact is, given the supply issues we're having in Canada right now, we can't stop that."
With files from The St. John's Morning Show