Canada’s legal market hoses Colorado’s
There is no beating the Canadian cannabis market.
Canada was the first G-7 country to legalize cannabis, since the Cannabis Act went into law in 2018, granting federal-level legalization of cannabis to everyone over 18-21 depending on the province. Everyone of age can carry 30 grams of dried cannabis on their person, and it can be visible. You can use a Canadian-issued credit card at dispensaries — no cash is necessary.
While laws vary provincially and municipally, in general, it is legal to consume cannabis anywhere cigarettes are allowed. You can also fly domestically with 30 grams of dried cannabis and paraphernalia.
The cannabis market in Canada is large. From 2018-21, there was over 11 billion Canadian dollars in sales ($8.74 billion at the current exchange rate, which is about 80 American cents to CA$1). Only 67.8% of that was recreational sales, as Canada also has a strong medical market.
The entire industry brought CA$43.5 billion toward the Canadian gross domestic product. The industry maintains around 98,000 jobs annually, with growers, packagers, shipping and logistics personnel and budtenders.
This large market yields far cheaper prices on average. From 2018-20, the average price for a gram of dried flower was CA$6.95 after taxes. The best prices were in Quebec, with a gram going for CA$5.85, and the worst prices were in the territories at CA$10.65. Even Canada’s worst price is considerably lower than Colorado, where the average gram goes for $12, according to MarijuanaRates.com.
This may be because producers and growers are able to get capital from stocks and bonds on the Toronto Stock Exchange. That’s right: In Canada, you can invest in weed. You can in the U.S. as well, but the overall industry underperforms the market.
One of the biggest producers in Canada is Aurora Cannabis Inc., which produces all different types of products from flowers to topicals, edibles and everything in between, both recreationally under many brand names as well as medically.
There are plenty of other examples, like Quebec-based HEXO Corp., which produces mostly for its domestic market, to large multinational cannabis corporations, like Canopy Growth Corporation, which sells in Canada, Germany and right here at home in the U.S. By making cannabis federally legal, Canada has enabled their companies to grow beyond their borders and will likely remain at the forefront of the legal industry with a first-mover advantage.
Taxes are also less convoluted — to the consumer, at least. Cannabis packages are labeled with a big red THC warning as well as an excise stamp on the opening of the package. This tax stamp is different based on the province and assures the consumer that the product they’re about to enjoy is completely legal countrywide, and all duties are paid. The duty is baked into the price, and the consumer only has to add sales tax, which can range from 5-15%.
The biggest downside to Canada’s legal market is actually the United States. Since legalization, Canadian citizens have had a harder time coming to the U.S. for any reason, as border control has reportedly made entry difficult for those who admit to cannabis use at any point.
There is no beating Canadian cannabis rules at the moment. Federal legalization allows anyone in their dominion of age to possess, use and sell cannabis with proper licenses in an open, legal and safe environment.
Colorado’s creative market shreds Canada’s
Colorado, along with Washington, is the oldest legal recreational cannabis market in North America.
Amendment 64 to the Constitution of the State of Colorado legalized recreational cannabis in 2012, and sales began in 2014. All people of age in Colorado are able to carry up to two ounces or about 57 grams of cannabis or equivalent on their person as long as it’s concealed. Not all areas of the state signed up to allow dispensaries, but possession and use on private property are legalized statewide.
Since 2014, cannabis sales in the state have totaled over $12 billion, steadily increasing year after year. Since Canadian legalization (2018-2021), Colorado sales were $7.7 billion, which is about 88% of Canadian sales in that period, adjusted for currency conversion. Colorado’s population is just shy of 6 million people, and Canada has almost 37 million.
It’s no wonder we pull almost the same sales as the entire country of Canada. Colorado’s market has far more variety in product offerings. Canada legalized topicals and edibles in 2019; Colorado’s had them since 2014. Colorado products are mature and consistent, and similar products often make their way to Canada. All our dispensaries are private, so a greater variety of prices, locations and entrepreneurs get to take their shot in our market.
Our biggest Achilles’ heel is the limited scope of Amendment 64 — it only applies to Colorado. You cannot leave the state with cannabis legally, and use in public remains an offense.
The excise tax on retail cannabis is 15%, which is competitive with some provinces, like Quebec, whose sales tax is 14.98%. Granted, the Colorado state sales tax is just 2.9%, so paraphernalia, papers and other products to get you high are considerably less taxed.
The packaging requirements of the two jurisdictions we’re discussing here today are remarkably similar, but Colorado has an edge in my opinion. A large red THC label is required, similar to Canada, but so is a set of instructions to use the product. Plus, a “list of all nonorganic pesticides, fungicides and herbicides used” is required on packaging, and a list of solvents and chemicals used to make concentrates is required on their packaging.
Prices in Colorado are not as good as their northern counterpart. A gram on average goes for $12 in Colorado, compared to Canada at CA$6.95. For that extra price, you get to try a large variety of products that even regularly compete, such as in the Connoisseur Cup, to determine the elevated way to get lifted.
These winners have regularly appeared all across North America, cementing Colorado as a leader in the cannabis industry. There are also new innovations, such as CERIA Brewing Company, a brewery that makes THC-infused craft beers founded by Keith Villa, who started Blue Moon Brewing Company.
Colorado will always be a leader in the legal cannabis market. It was the first to legalize — along with Washington — and it continues to innovate and dominate. Colorado has a robust cannabis market with an excellent history of innovation, but until federal prohibition ends, the market cannot live up to its true potential.