A study published in Drug and Alcohol Review found Canada’s retail cannabis market expanded rapidly in the two years after legalisation, but there are large variations in jurisdictions. 

The number of cannabis stores increased from 158 in November 2018 (one month after legalisation), to 1,183 two years later, a 648% jump.

The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa Department of Family Medicine postdoctoral fellow Dr Daniel Myran

The lowest stores per capita are in Quebec and Ontario (0.6 and 1.6 per 100,000 respectively), with Alberta and Yukon having the highest concentration (14.3 per 100,000 in both), suggesting the market remains immature in some regions.

The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa Department of Family Medicine postdoctoral fellow Dr Daniel Myran said: “A lot of studies have looked at cannabis use in the year following legalisation, not seen very dramatic changes, and concluded [it] really doesn’t have much of an impact on cannabis use and related health outcomes.

“What our data suggests is that we should not really have expected major changes right after legalisation because of market immaturity. I anticipate that it’s only now that the market is taking off that we will see the potential impacts of legalisation on cannabis use and related health outcomes.”

The study also concluded that access to cannabis stores is concentrated in low-income neighbourhoods which may contribute to health disparities.

The authors said more research is needed to determine how these patterns of access to cannabis retail relate to public health, drug policy goals of reducing the illicit market and cannabis-related health and social harms.