How popular is the cannabis legacy market? A new report in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs has confirmed what many know. Higher prices and inconvenience encourage consumers to seek out illicit sources of cannabis. Or, putting it another way, the barrier to legal cannabis makes the legacy market more attractive to consumers.
Researchers were from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. They looked at data from the 2019 and 2020 International Cannabis Policy Study. In an observational study, the participants self-reported how much cannabis they used and purchased legally.
Participants cited higher prices as the number one reason to avoid legal sources. In Canada, the preference for legacy markets was nearly 40% versus just over 25% for American consumers.
The second most-cited inconvenience was that legal sources were too far away. Or that there weren’t any stores where the participants lived. Other reasons were cited less but remain significant. These include the desire to say anonymous, avoid irradiated cannabis or loyalty to legacy farmers.
Making the Cannabis Legacy Market Unpopular
Making the cannabis legacy market unpopular is one of Canada’s significant goals with legalization. Besides “protecting children,” the entire point was to displace BC Bud. Since day one, the government has been favouring a top-down licensed producer regime.
“Cannabis legalization is one of the most notable substance use policies in several decades,” says study co-author David Hammond, Ph.D., professor and university research chair at the University of Waterloo’s School of Public Health Sciences.
“Transitioning consumers from illegal to legal retail sources is a primary goal of legalization. Indeed, many of the potential benefits of legalization—including product standards, revenue for legitimate businesses, and reduced burden on the criminal justice system—depend upon shifting consumers to legal cannabis sources. Given the importance of this issue, there is surprisingly little empirical evidence on the factors that determine where consumers source their products in a legal market.”
Future Research Required
The future popularity of the cannabis legacy market may falter. As the continent’s cannabis industry evolves and matures, there’s potential for this data to change. For example, surveying Canadian consumers in 2022 may yield different results from 2019. The number of retail stores in 2019 was significantly less.
“As markets mature, the number of stores per capita tends to increase, and inconvenience is expected to become less of a hurdle. Regulators will need to balance public health and criminal justice priorities in order to establish a competitive market for legal cannabis that encourages legal purchasing.”
Make The Cannabis Legacy Market Popular Again
The research doesn’t speculate on whether customers are justified in their choices. For example, Canada’s high barriers to entry shut out many cannabis entrepreneurs. Loyal customers of BC Bud will prefer the legacy market no matter how attractive the government tries to make corporate weed.