Canada is set to become the first major economy to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, but first it must first solve a small problem: the country doesn't have enough pot. Bloomberg reports that legal marijuana supplies don't quite meet the demand expected once the law, which PM Justin Trudeau unveiled in April, goes into effect in July 2018. Despite estimates that legalization could boost the marijuana industry’s sales to $4.5 billion per year by 2021, the scramble to approve new dispensaries and boost production in existing ones takes time. "We want to make certain that, when we do proceed, there is sufficient supply to accommodate the activity because what we’re trying to do is curb the illicit use and organized crime that now exists around it," says Ontario's finance minister.
Per Bloomberg, shortages already exist for the 167,754 registered medical marijuana users. Greg Engel of grower Organigram asserts that though companies "are building out additional capacity very actively and aggressively," the government has not clarified selling guidelines. Canadian officials say they’ll expedite new licenses to grow marijuana, but ramping up production can take a year or more. "You can’t force the plants to grow faster," says an industry insider. Lack of supply has energized the debate over whether the law should be delayed. A major goal in Canada’s move to legalize the drug is to extinguish sales on the black market, which critics say can’t be achieved without enough legal pot. Meanwhile, taxation of the drug is also being deliberated, with the federal financial minister and Trudeau both being in favor of low taxation in order to compete with black market prices. (Read more marijuana legalization stories.)