Availability, retail price and potency of legal and illegal cannabis in Canada after recreational cannabis legalisation.

INTRODUCTION AND AIMS:

There is little objective market data on the price or potency of legal and illegal cannabis products following recreational cannabis legalisation.

DESIGN AND METHODS:

In the 2 months post-legalisation in Canada (November-December 2018), legal and illegal cannabis retailers were identified from government lists and online directories. The store location, price and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol levels of dried herb and cannabis cookies were collected from retailer websites or Weedmaps.

RESULTS:

We identified 185 legal retailers (22 online stores, 163 storefronts; 65 government-run stores, 120 private stores) and 944 illegal retailers (791 delivery-only services, 157 storefronts). Relative to legal dried herb, illegal dried herb was lower in price (1 g: $10.23 vs. $11.08, ⅛ oz: $9.37/g vs. $10.88/g, ½ oz: $8.18/g vs. $8.85/g; P < 0.05 for all) and higher in potency (THC: 20.5% vs. 16.1%, cannabidiol: 2.4% vs. 1.7%; P < 0.05 for both). Legal private stores had higher prices for dried herb than government-run stores (1 g: $13.08 vs. $10.89, ⅛ oz: $12.75/g vs. $10.45/g, ½ oz: $10.85/g vs. $8.71/g, 1 oz: $8.54/g vs. $7.22/g; P < 0.05 for all). On average, one cannabis cookie in the illegal market contained 96 mg of THC and cost $1.57 per 10 mg of THC.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS:

In the 2 months post-legalisation, illegal cannabis was less expensive, with higher labelled THC content than legal cannabis, although the scope of these differences was more modest than estimates from other crowdsourced and self-reported data. Direct monitoring of cannabis price and potency from legal and illegal retailers is needed to examine the impact of legalisation over time.

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