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May. 26, 2018 | Saturday
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Will pot smokers buy from legal shops?
Cannabis. (File photo)

With the legalization of marijuana just five months away, it begs the question: will pot smokers actually buy from government stores?

To find out, Niagara Now talked with some regular smokers in Niagara — some medical users and some recreational — to see whether or not they’ll be visiting one of the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation’s retail locations set to hit Niagara Falls and St. Catharines.

The general consensus: smokers will go where the price is right.

Some cannabis users said they plan to grow their own supply for the cost of production, while others said they plan to find the best deal, whether it be street or store.

Clarke Bitter, a medical marijuana patient from Niagara Falls, who smokes daily, said he thinks OCRC success will depend on finding the right combination of price and quality.

“Like any other product on the market, the quality varies drastically from producer to producer,” he said. “These companies (that produce the best quality at decent prices) are the companies who will be successful.”

Bitter said the street price is currently based on a bulk system and varies between quantities of one gram, 3.5 grams, seven grams, 14 grams, 28 grams (an ounce) and up. One gram is typically $10 on the street.

“The way I see it, if you go buy seven grams, it’s going to cost you $70, plus a dollar for tax, plus 13 per cent for HST — so now you’re talking another 23 per cent … well more than that because the 13 per cent is on $11.”

He said the $10 a gram model the government is proposing needs to be a maximum price to offer value to customers and suspects there will be a tiered pricing system based on quality and growth times — similar alcohol in how certain wines and spirits cost more because of the process required to make them.

“The market is going to change now because actually economic factors are going to come into play,” said Bitter. “Some plants can produce a flower in 60 days, but a sativa is going to take you 120 or more, so they’re going to be more expensive, because it takes more greenhouse time and green house lighting and things like that.”

Bitter himself? He’ll be growing his own.

He said he thinks growing will be a popular option among chronic smokers, pointing out that proposed grow limit of four plants is currently residence-specific, not individual specific, so it’s legal to grow a plant at somebody else’s house who doesn’t smoke or at a second owned residence.

It’s also legal to share up to 30 grams with another adult.

Bitter seems to be right — the Canadian government said in “Legalizing and strictly regulating cannabis: the facts” that adults who are 18 years or older will be able to legally grow up to four cannabis plants per residence for personal use from a licensed seed or seedling provider.

The government also removed a 100 centimetre height restriction because it would have been too difficult to enforce.

And while there is an imposed possession limit of 30 grams, the wording doesn’t specify whether that is an on-person limit or a household limit.

Bitter said it’s going to be interesting to see how things play out.

“I can literally have 100 pounds of it inside my house, legally, once legalization comes. Or at least that’s the way the rules are written right now.”

As a medical patient, Bitter said even if growing didn’t work out, he currently gets much better prices from his medical provider, Aurora Cannabis.

Bitter said he currently gets 10 grams for $60, while the typical street price in Niagara is $60 for seven grams.

Regardless, whether or not smokers buy from the OCRC shouldn’t affect Niagara much, said Bitter, noting he thinks the cannabis shops — or cafes — will see a high amount of tourist traffic.

The OCRC can count on one market for sure: most smokers said they would be stopping in for a “treat” from the government store on special occasions — which we can only assume is something like, totally rad.