Though demand for weed has been high for decades, it’s use has soared in recent years due to a wave of medical and recreational marijuana laws sweeping the country. But with increased regulations and limited licenses available for growers and dispensaries in many states, the demand is far exceeding the supply and causing a huge dilemma for medical patients.
Medical cannabis shortages are making it difficult for patients to find the strains they need to treat specific ailments, and in some areas, patients have trouble finding top-shelf weed at all, forcing them to the black market once again. These cannabis droughts have been going on for years and are fairly widespread, affecting patients in many areas throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe.
Coast to coast dry spells
Most people would think that Oregon has more than enough weed to go around, having drawn in an impressive $54 million in tax revenue gains in the legal cannabis industry last year. But those are only outward appearances with nearly 70,000 medical cannabis patients, plus constant negotiations between state officials and the industry regarding strict, and rather slow, testing regulations that lead to inventory shortages. Seasoned dispensaries like Homegrown Oregon typically stock up on popular products, buying three or four times more than they anticipate will be needed. But even so, long wait-lists still end up forming for certain items.
Traveling further down the West Coast to the wildly unregulated SoCal MMJ market; despite being the top producers of cannabis in the country, communities here aren’t immune to shortages either. A lot of inland cities are running dry, and I’m not talking about that parched desert air. The Palm Springs / Indio area, all the way out to the High Desert surrounding Barstow and going out to Nevada, is a weed wasteland. For the last decade, patients in those regions have dealt with limited dispensaries and virtually no delivery options, forcing them to travel 30 miles or more (one way) just to purchase their medicine.
In the Land of Enchantment, AKA New Mexico, medical marijuana patients are furious. The few cannabis production companies are limited to growing only 450 plants each, which is nowhere near enough to cater to the state’s 26,568 medical patients, and counting. Some patients are so angry they’re suing. Nicole Sena, the mother of an epileptic infant who can’t get medication, is joining forces with cannabis producers Ultra Health Inc. to file a lawsuit against the state of New Mexico.
And last but not least, our nation’s capital has also been up and down in terms of pot supply. Once the district made the patient application process more lenient, patient numbers skyrocketed and there just wasn’t enough pot to go around. Luckily, a new law that allows growers to cultivate twice the amount of plants seems to be remedying the situation, for now at least.
Across the globe
Cannabis shortages aren’t just an American problem, Canada and Europe have been hit pretty hard with the drought as well. Licensed medical cannabis growers in Canada are trying to keep up with rapid increase in the number of patients signing up for Health Canada’s cannabis market. According to data from Health Canada, “the number of registered patients has grown quickly, with the federal agency reporting 90,208 new clients from December 2015 to December 2016 — an annual increase of 227 percent.”
European medical programs have a very limited selection and only about a dozen strains that are permitted by the EU. In countries where smokeable flower is legal like Italy, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic, new cultivation licenses were awarded to groups with no previous experience growing cannabis, and unsurprisingly, they struggled to keep pace with increasing demands and a developing taste for high-quality bud. Other countries, Germany and Finland for example, rely entirely on imported products from the Netherlands and sometimes Canada, both of which are facing shortages of their own.
Some states are trying to get a handle on the situation before it spirals out of control. In California, dispensaries will begin stocking their shelves in advance to make sure they meet consumer needs, but as demonstrated in Oregon, waitlists can still develop. In Oregon, the Health Authority overhauled their cannabis testing policies, hoping to make it cheaper and more time efficient for weed to get tested and shipped to local dispensaries. Regardless, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan, just in case your favorite strain is off the shelf for a while.