Canadian Cannabis Sales Skyrocketed 120 Percent in 2020

Providing a glimpse into what national legalization can do, Canada's legal cannabis sales now outstrip illegal sales, and its criminal justice system has become fairer
Canadian Cannabis Sales Skyrocketed 120 Percent in 2020
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Sales of cannabis in Canada more than doubled in 2020 as the nation, like the rest of the world, spent a lot of time quarantined. The total sales amount reached $2.8 billion in Canadian dollars, a 120 percent increase from 2019.

What’s more, a new report from the Canadian government shows that legal cannabis sales outstripped sales of illegal cannabis for the first time. Combatting the cannabis black market is something officials have faced everywhere marijuana is legal.

National legalization has all but eliminated arrests for possession, which have included a high percentage of people of color. There were 26,402 arrests made in 2018 before cannabis became legal in October of that year. In 2019, that number dropped to 46, according to research from the New York Times.

RELATED: How Popular Are Cannabis Drinks In Canada? Time To Find Out.


Most Canadian sales happen in four markets

Just four markets account for 84 percent of cannabis sales in Canada, according to government statistics: Ontario, Alberta, Quebec and British Columbia. Much of the increase is attributable to the rollout of new stores across the country, and the popularity of products first made legal in 2019. Those include edibles and beverages.

Another important change in Canada happened in the third quarter of 2020, according to the Canadian government. In that period, Canadians spent $824 million on legal, non-medical cannabis products, more than the estimated $754 million spent on non-medical, illegal cannabis products. 

Price decreases on flower have helped bring more people to buy into the legal market and the addition of more legal dispensaries.

RELATED: 5 Lessons the U.S. Can Learn From Canadian Cannabis Legalization.


Keeping promises on criminal justice reform.

When he helped to sell the idea of making cannabis legal at the national level, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made fairness and equity in the legal system part of the plan. According to the Times, most people in Canada feel the government has kept its promises in this regard.

The most significant change is in the near-eliminating of possession arrests. A report from the Ontario Human Rights Commission had found that while they make up only 8.8 percent of the population in Toronto, black people accounted for 34 percent of all marijuana possession charges between 2013 and 2017.

Studies in the United Kingdom and the United States have found similar patterns. For example, an American Civil Liberties Union study found that black people are three times more likely to get arrested than whites for marijuana possession. In some states, that rate is much, much higher.

While arrests have dropped, Canada still has work to do around fairness and equity. For example, less than 400 people have had their criminal records of cannabis possession expunged. And the country still has not met its goals on the inclusion of indigenous people in the cannabis industry.

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