News Release

Changes in Canada’s cannabis retail market 2 years after legalization

Cannabis shops still concentrating in low-income neighborhoods

Peer-Reviewed Publication

The Ottawa Hospital

Changes in Canada’s cannabis retail market 2 years after legalization

image: Dr. Daniel Myran, a postdoctoral fellow at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa Department of Family Medicine. view more 

Credit: The University of Ottawa

A recent study by public health researchers published in Drug and Alcohol Review documents the rapid expansion of the cannabis retail market in Canada in the two years following legalization.

The researchers found that the legal cannabis market increased from 158 stores (0.5 stores per 100,000 individuals) one month after legalization to 1,183 stores (3.7 stores per 100,000 individuals) two years after legalization – a 648% increase.

Similar to the team’s previous study 6 months after legalization, they found there were twice as many cannabis stores concentrated in low-income neighbourhoods compared to high-income neighbourhoods.

There was also enormous variation in market maturity between provinces and territories. For example, Alberta and the Yukon had 24 times more cannabis stores per capita than Quebec two years after legalization.

Jurisdictions with private retail models (where cannabis stores are privately owned and operated) had more stores and saw a 913% increase in store growth over time, compared to public models (where stores are owned and operated by the government) which saw a 75% increase in store growth.

The researchers suggest the variations between jurisdictions may impact their ability to meet the public health goals of cannabis legalization – reducing harmful youth use and eliminating the illicit market.

In addition, the team notes that Canada’s legal market remained immature in many regions two years after legalization. This market immaturity cautions against studies assessing the impact of legalization on cannabis use and related- health outcomes using data only for the first two years.

“A lot of studies to date have looked at cannabis use in the year following legalization, not seen very dramatic changes, and concluded that legalization really doesn’t have much of an impact on cannabis use and related health outcomes,” said Dr. Daniel Myran, a postdoctoral fellow at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa Department of Family Medicine.  “What our data suggests is that we should not really have expected major changes right after legalization because of market immaturity. I anticipate that its only now that the market is taking off that we will see the potential impacts of legalization on cannabis use and related health outcomes.”


This study comes in advance of the three-year review of the Cannabis Act by Canadian lawmakers, which will start in October 2021.

About The Ottawa Hospital 
The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s top learning and research hospitals, where excellent care is inspired by research and driven by compassion. As the third-largest employer in Ottawa, our support staff, researchers, nurses, physicians, and volunteers never stop seeking solutions to the most complex health-care challenges. Our multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, attracts some of the most influential scientific minds from around the world. Backed by generous support from the community, we are committed to providing the world-class, compassionate care we would want for our loved ones.

About the University of Ottawa
The University of Ottawa is home to over 50,000 students, faculty and staff, who live, work and study in both French and English. Our campus is a crossroads of cultures and ideas, where bold minds come together to inspire game-changing ideas. We are one of Canada’s top 10 research universities—our professors and researchers explore new approaches to today’s challenges. One of a handful of Canadian universities ranked among the top 200 in the world, we attract exceptional thinkers and welcome diverse perspectives from across the globe.

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