Canada’s legal cannabis market – one year on

Press Advisory

16th October 2019

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Canada’s legal cannabis market – one year on


Tomorrow (17th October 2019) marks the one year anniversary of Canada’s establishment of legally regulated adult market for non-medical (recreational) cannabis. Canada follows Uruguay and 11 US States in legalising cannabis for recreational use, and is the first commonwealth country and G7 member to do so. 


Transform have gathered expert opinion and written a summary briefing on Canada’s legal cannabis market, which is available online via from 9:30am Thursday 17th October. Experts include Dr Jenna Valleriani Executive Director, Hope for Health Canada and Scott E. Bernstein, Director of Policy at Canadian Drug Policy Coalition.

To arrange interviews, please contact Ben Campbell (see contacts).

Key takeaways from the first year:


  • The implementation and success of the new legal market has varied between provinces, all of which have adopted different systems of control.


  • Levels of cannabis consumption have increased slightly, although a meaningful assessment of long-term impacts is not yet possible.  


  •  Legal sales are estimated to now account for between 25-50 per cent of the cannabis market. Illegal market sales, therefore, remain significant but inroads are being made. 


  • Reducing the illicit market has been hampered by supply shortages and limited access to legal retail cannabis stores, especially in heavily-populated provinces such as Ontario.      


  • The failure to establish a comprehensive mechanism for expunging previous criminal records for cannabis-related activities has attracted widespread criticism. So to has the absence of equity programmes (notably pioneered in Massachusetts US), which reinvest a proportion of industry revenues into communities most negatively impacted by drug enforcement.
  • The market dominance of large cannabis corporations, combined with significant regulatory barriers to participation for smaller scale businesses, has raised concerns that a new ‘Big Cannabis’ could emerge. These worries have been fueled by significant cannabis market investment by a number of major alcohol and tobacco corporates  


Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst at Transform, said:


“Canada took a bold and important decision to legally regulate cannabis.They should be commended for getting the complex regulatory framework up and running, but inevitably there have been some teething problems as the new market has been rolled out which should be resolved as the implementation progresses.


“Other countries should learn from Canada. Alongside the positives, there have been mistakes – including the failure to hardwire social equity and expungement of criminal records into federal legislation. Perhaps most importantly, we must guard against allowing a small number of large scale corporations to dominate the market, given past experiences with alcohol and tobacco.” 





James Nicholls, Chief Executive Officer, Transform Drug Policy Foundation, (+44) 07985 548 405, 

Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst, Transform Drug Policy Foundation: (+44) 07980 213 943,

Ben Campbell, Communications Officer, Transform Drug Policy Foundation: (+44) 0117 325 0295,


Notes to editors

  1. Transform Drug Policy Foundation is an independent charity that works to reduce drug-related harms through evidence-based reforms to policy and practice. It supports the legal regulation of drugs, and campaigns for policies that promote health and social justice.
  2. Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst at Transform, acted as a consultant for the Canadian Federal Government Task Force on cannabis regulation framework.
  3. A briefing outlining the results and experiences of Canada’s legal cannabis market is available here:
  4. Figures on legal sales of recreational cannabis are obtained from: Government of Canada (2019). Cannabis Demand and Supply:
  5. Massachusetts social equity program:
2020-05-26T11:01:46+01:00October 16th, 2019|



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