‘Ottawa’ Pot luck: Medical marijuana in Ottawa is cheaper by mail
A University of Ottawa student dropped into a marijuana shop on Rideau Street this week to buy some weed to help with her insomnia.
She considered the dried bud on display in jars at Life Line Medicinals, and asked to see a variety called Girl Scout Cookies. The clerk opened the jar and she gave it a sniff. “Do you mind if I touch?” she inquired. Sure, he said.
The clerk dipped his hands into the jar, scooped weed into a plastic cup and weighed it on a scale before popping it into a Ziploc bag for her.
The bud at Life Line sells for between $10 and $14 a gram, typical for Ottawa’s illegal pot shops.
If the student had obtained a doctor’s prescription and made her purchase from Tweed Inc., the legal medical marijuana grower in Smiths Falls, she would have paid an average of $8.75 a gram.
If she had strolled down Rideau and found a street dealer, she probably would have paid around $9.
Of course, the experiences aren’t comparable. At the Health Canada-regulated Tweed plant, marijuana is tested for safety and potency before it’s mailed to customers. No smelling or sniffing before purchase. At most local dispensaries, operators say the merchandise is shipped from illicit growers in B.C. They say it’s high quality and safe, and customers take their word for it.
On the street, customers face other dangers, from being ripped off or assaulted to having their pot laced with other substances.
The price of pot is a key consideration as the federal government moves to legalize recreational marijuana. If the government imposes too many taxes, pushing the price up, the black market will flourish. When Washington state legalized recreational marijuana, for example, so many taxes were slapped on it that the government was forced to reduce taxes to lure customers away from the illicit market.
But if legal prices are too low, that might encourage use.
It’s a delicate balance, says a discussion paper by the federal task force studying how Canada should legalize and “strictly regulate” recreational pot. The task force is expected to release its recommendations next week. The government has promised to introduce legislation to legalize recreational pot in the spring, and sales could begin as early as January 2018.
What you’ll pay for a gram of weed
$9: Average price on the black market, according to a report earlier this month by the Parliamentary Budget Officer
$8.94: Average price charged by all Health Canada-approved medical marijuana growers in September, according to a survey by Lift News
$8.75: Average price at Tweed, the Health Canada-approved medical marijuana grower in Smiths Falls, according to its website
$10.73: Average price at OMD, a locally-owned dispensary on Antares Drive, according to its website
$11.65: Average price at Weeds, a B.C.-based chain with a dispensary on Bank Street, according to its website
$11.72 Average price at Magna Terra, a locally-owned dispensary with outlets on Carling Avenue and in Stittsville, according to its website
$12.20: Average price at Green Tree, a dispensary on Preston Street operated by a B.C.-based chain, as surveyed in store Monday
*Note: Some licensed producers and dispensaries, including Tweed, Magna Terra and OMD, offer various discounts for people on low income, seniors and veterans