Canada’s appetite for legal cannabis could be almost as big as it is for wine, CIBC says

Canadians could soon be spending more on recreational cannabis than they do on liquor, if a report from a major bank is to be believed.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce calculated in a report this week that in the next two years, Canadians will consume 800,000 kilograms of cannabis, the vast majority of which will be for recreational use.

“We believe that by 2020, the legal market for adult-use cannabis will approach $6.5 billion in retail sales,” CIBC said. “For context, this is greater than the amount of spirits sold in this country, and approaches wine in scale.”

The federal government has been telegraphing for more than a year its intention of legalizing recreational cannabis by July. While that timeline has slid back somewhat, the government is still on track to legalize the drug some time this summer.

Currently, Canadians legally consume about 60,000 kilograms of marijuana per year, for medical purposes. But “this is a drop in the bucket compared to illicit purchases,” the bank said.

Statistics Canada waded into the issue earlier this year, noting that roughly five million Canadians consumed marijuana in 2017, spending more than $5.7 billion in the process.  That compares with about $16 billion worth of tobacco purchases; $9.2 billion on beer, $7 billion on wine, and $5.1 billion on spirits.

And that’s at a time when recreational use is still illegal.