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The pandemic had little impact on Canada’s legal cannabis sales

While the pandemic was often blamed for 2020-2021’s strong recreational cannabis sales growth, the boost in sales was more likely due to existing trends,…

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New research found that cannabis sale trends were more likely from industry expansion, rather than pandemic-related societal disruptions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tara Walton

The pandemic saw a boom in legal recreational cannabis sales across Canada. From March 2020 to February 2021, sales totaled $2.5 billion, double the $1.25 billion of the previous 12 months. Surveys likewise reported more cannabis users and more frequent usage in 2020 than the year before.

The increases were often blamed, despite a lack of evidence, on the COVID-19 pandemic and related societal disruptions. Many people were stuck alone at home and feeling stressed. Some commentators later walked back their claims after it became clear there was no data to support them, but the narrative still persists.

Although it’s a compelling anecdote, our new research found that the growth in cannabis sales was more likely from industry expansion, rather than the pandemic.

A rapidly expanding industry

The number of licensed stores grew rapidly after Canada legalized recreational cannabis in October 2018. There were barely more than 100 stores open that first month, but by March 2019, that number had doubled, and by February 2021 the total had reached 1,500.

Nationwide monthly sales began at $42 million in October 2018 and still totalled only $59 million in March 2019. But by February 2021 they exceeded $262 million. National sales now exceed $347 million monthly, thanks partly to having at least 3,100 licensed stores.

Line chart showing monthly Canadian recreational cannabis sales steadily increasing.
Canadian retail cannabis sales, October 2018 to January 2022, adjusted for month length. Created by authors from Statistics Canada data.

Read more: Cannabis store openings in Canada only slightly affected the number of users


We know sales growth was partly related to store growth, but product selection also widened as more producers and product formats entered the market. Most notably, cannabis-infused foods, drinks and vape oils began hitting store shelves in January 2020. Cannabis vapes quickly became the second-best selling product format after smokeable cannabis.

No sales jump in March 2020

Our multidisciplinary research team analyzed monthly per capita recreational cannabis sales, both nationally and provincially, using Statistics Canada data from March 2019 to February 2021. This covered the first 12 months of the pandemic and the 12 months that preceded it.

Surprisingly, we found no sign of a sustained sales jump after the pandemic hit in March 2020. Many stores were frantically busy for a few days as people stocked up before lockdowns began, but those brief surges apparently were counterbalanced by quieter days afterwards. Instead, we detected a small sales drop in January 2020 that presumably came from consumers trimming their post-holiday spending.

People lining up on sidewalk outside a business
People line up outside a cannabis store in Ottawa ahead of province wide closures on April 4, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Our calculations revealed a modest acceleration in month-over-month sales growth in 2020. However, this boost coincided more with the arrival of vapes and other new products in January, rather than the pandemic’s onset in March.

Overall, we didn’t see any pandemic-related cannabis sales gains big enough to worry regulators or to interest economists. Instead, the growth seemed largely due to continued increases in stores and products.

Growth’s implications

It’s important to understand why cannabis sales grew, because Canadian regulators need to understand the increase was an industry feature, not a pandemic side effect. The federal and provincial governments should take this into account as they work on adjusting cannabis regulations.

The lack of sustained pandemic effects on sales also matters to cannabis businesses. The pandemic surely increased producers’ operating complexity and costs, but we can’t blame it for lacklustre revenues.

A hand holding a lit joint
It’s estimated that one third of daily cannabis users could eventually develop a cannabis use disorder. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Our results are also relevant to public health. Between 2018 and 2020, the percentage of Canadians who self-reported using cannabis rose to 20 per cent from 14 per cent. The proportion reporting daily, or near daily, use similarly climbed to 7.9 per cent from 5.4 per cent. It’s estimated that one-third of such users could eventually develop a cannabis use disorder.

Our research strongly implies the economic impacts are not a temporary pandemic blip. It also suggests that the pandemic may not be a good explanation for increased cannabis use.


Read more: 3 years after legalization, we have shockingly little information about how it changed cannabis use and health harms


Cannabis-related health issues

Early indicators suggest the increase in regular use might be resulting in other health harms. For example, cannabis-related visits to emergency rooms across Canada increased substantially in 2020 and 2021.

Our findings might also interest policy-makers outside of Canada. Many other countries, ranging from Malta to Mexico, are in the process of legalizing cannabis.

Meanwhile, U.S. Congress continues to struggle with cannabis legislation. America badly needs to revise its messy patchwork of cannabis laws, but its politicians haven’t been able to agree on how to proceed.

Gaining a better understanding Canada’s legalization experience can not only inform Canadian regulators, businesses and healthcare providers, but also offer lessons for many other countries too.

Daniel Myran receives funding from CIHR and the University of Ottawa Department of Family Medicine.

Michael J. Armstrong does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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University of Kentucky researchers develop online portal to show how biases in RNA sequences affect gene expression

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 29, 2022) — A recent publication from researchers at the University of Kentucky explains the importance of identifying and understanding…

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 29, 2022) — A recent publication from researchers at the University of Kentucky explains the importance of identifying and understanding how differences between tissues and cells alter gene expression without changing the underlying genetic code.

Credit: Pete Comparoni | University of Kentucky Photo

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 29, 2022) — A recent publication from researchers at the University of Kentucky explains the importance of identifying and understanding how differences between tissues and cells alter gene expression without changing the underlying genetic code.

Introductory biology classes teach that DNA is transcribed into RNA, which is then translated into proteins. However, many cellular processes affect how quickly transcription and translation occur. Gene expression looks at the differences in RNA concentrations within a cell, and it can help scientists know which genes are active within that tissue or cell.

“Changes in gene expression can significantly affect various diseases and disease trajectories,” said Justin Miller, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UK College of Medicine’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

Miller, who is also affiliated with the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and Biomedical Informatics, says he and his colleagues previously developed the first algorithm to identify ramp sequences from a single gene sequence. Through their recent work, Miller and fellow UK co-authors Mark Ebbert, Ph.D., and Matthew Hodgman created an online version of that algorithm and showed that ramp sequences change between tissues and cells without changing the RNA sequence.

A ramp sequence is part of the RNA sequence that slows translation at the beginning of the gene by using codons (sequences of three DNA or RNA nucleotides) that are not easily translated. Ramp sequences counterintuitively increase overall gene expression by evenly spacing the translational machinery and preventing collisions later in translation.

In their recent publication in NAR Genomics and Bioinformatics, the researchers present the first comprehensive analysis of tissue- and cell type-specific ramp sequences and report more than 3,000 genes with ramp sequences that change between tissues and cell types, which correspond with increased gene expression within those tissues and cells.

“This research is the first time that variable ramp sequences have been described. Our comprehensive web interface allows other researchers to creatively explore ramp sequences and gene expression,” said Miller.

The research team says this work is important because while there are multiple ways for our RNA to encode the same proteins, the specific RNA sequence is important to regulate protein and RNA levels.

“Essentially, a ramp sequence works like an on-ramp to a freeway so that ribosomes do not crash into each other, but the length and speed limit of that onramp can change depending on the cell and the available resources within that cell,” Miller explained.

He says he enjoyed working on this project not only with his colleagues at UK but as well as his former colleagues at Brigham Young University and his brother, Kyle Miller, at Utah Valley University. Together, the group created a web interface for people to see how ramp sequences correspond with human and COVID-19 gene expression in different tissues and cells.

Miller says he believes this work will eventually impact patient care. “We created an online interface for researchers to query all human genes and see if a specific gene has a ramp sequence in a given tissue and how that gene is expressed within that tissue,” said Miller. “We also show that various COVID-19 genes and human entry factors for COVID-19 have ramp sequences that change between different tissues. Ramp sequences are much more likely to occur in tissues where the virus is known to proliferate.”

So, the researchers believe that COVID-19 genes have genetic biases (ramp sequences) that allow them to use the available cellular machinery to increase their expression. “Our research may help us better predict which tissues and cells new viruses will infect and also provides a potential therapeutic target to regulate tissue-specific gene expression without changing the translated protein,” said Miller.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers P30AG072946 and R01AG068331, and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R35GM138636. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

This work was also funded by the BrightFocus Foundation, under awards A2020118F and A2020161S, and the Alzheimer’s Association, under award 2019-AARG-644082.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for” three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes’ list of “America’s Best Employers.”  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.


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White House Is Quietly Modeling For $200 Oil “Shock”

White House Is Quietly Modeling For $200 Oil "Shock"

While the Biden administration is hoping and praying that someone – anyone – will watch…

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White House Is Quietly Modeling For $200 Oil "Shock"

While the Biden administration is hoping and praying that someone - anyone - will watch the comical "Jan 6" kangaroo hearsay court taking place in Congress and meant to somehow block Trump from running for president in 2024 while also making hundreds of millions of Americans forget that the current administration could very well be the worst in US history, it is quietly preparing for the worst.

As none other than pro-Biden propaganda spinmaster CNN reports, when it comes to what really matters (at least according to Gallup), namely the economy, and specifically galloping gasoline prices, the White House is in a historic shambles.

For an administration that ended last year forecasting a leveling off of 40-year high inflation and eager to tout a historically rapid recovery from the pandemic-driven economic crisis, there is a level of frustration that comes with an acutely perilous moment. Asked by CNN about progress on a seemingly intractable challenge, another senior White House official responded flatly: "Which one?"

The suspects behind the historic implosion are well known: "soaring prices, teetering poll numbers and congressional majorities that appear to be on the brink have created no shortage of reasons for unease. Gas prices are hovering at or around $5 per gallon, plastered on signs and billboards across the country as a symbolic daily reminder of the reality -- one in which White House officials are extremely aware -- that the country's view of the economy is growing darker and taking Biden's political future with it."

"You don't have to be a very sophisticated person to know how lines of presidential approval and gas prices go historically in the United States," a senior White House official told CNN.

A CNN Poll of Polls average of ratings for Biden's handling of the presidency finds that 39% of Americans approve of the job he's doing. His numbers on the economy, gas prices and inflation specifically are even worse in recent polls. What CNN won't tell you is that Biden is now polling well below Trump at this time in his tenure.

The CNN article then goes into a lengthy analysis of what is behind the current gasoline crisis (those with lots of time to kill can read it here) and also tries to explains, without actually saying it, that the only thing that can fix the problem is more supply, but - as we first explained - this can't and won't happen because green fanatics and socialist environmentalists will never agree to boosting output.

Which brings us to the punchline: as CNN's Phil Mattingly writes, "instead of managing an economy in the midst of a natural rotation away from recovery and into a stable period of growth, economic officials are analyzing and modeling worst-case scenarios like what the shock of gas prices hitting $200 per barrel may mean for the economy."

Well, in an article titled "Give us a plan or give us someone to blame", this seems like both a plan, and someone to blame.

But unfortunately for Biden - and CNN which is hoping to reset expectations - it's only going to get worse, because as we noted moments ago, while nobody was paying attention, Cushing inventories dropped to just 1 million away from operational bottoms at roughly 20MM barrels. This means that the US is officially looking at tank bottoms.

But wait, there's more... or rather, it's even worse, because as even Bloomberg's chief energy guru Javier Blas notes, over the last 2 weeks, the US gov has drained 13.7 million barrels from the SPR, "and yet, commercial oil stockpiles still fell 3 million barrels over the period."

Just imagine, Blas asks rhetorically, "if the SPR wasn't there. Or what would happen post-Oct when sales end."

And here is the punchline: at the current record pace of SPR drainage, one way or another the Biden admin will have to end its artificial attempts to keep the price of oil lower some time in October (or risk entering a war with China over Taiwan with virtually no oil reserve). This means that unless Putin ends his war some time in the next 5 months, there is a non-trivial chance that oil will hit a record price around $200 - precisely the price the White House is bracing for - a few days before the midterms. While translates into $10+ gasoline.

And while one can speculate how much longer Democrats can continue the "Jan 6" dog and pony show as the entire economy implodes around them, how America will vote in November when gas is double digits should not be a mystery to anyone.

Tyler Durden Wed, 06/29/2022 - 13:05

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European Commission says it doesn’t have texts between president Ursula von der Leyen and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla

Under fire from the European ombudsman, the Commission said on Wednesday that it hasn’t found any text messages between president Ursula von der Leyen…

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Under fire from the European ombudsman, the Commission said on Wednesday that it hasn’t found any text messages between president Ursula von der Leyen and Pfizer chief Albert Bourla regarding the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines.

The messages became of interest last April, when the New York Times reported that a series of texts and calls between von der Leyen and Bourla led to Pfizer’s largest vaccine deal — 900 million doses of the current vaccine and a vaccine adapted to variants, with the option to purchase an additional 900 million doses through 2023.

Emily O’Reilly

Upon a public access request made by a journalist, the EC responded that it had no record of them. However, it was later revealed by ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, the EU’s internal watchdog, that the EC never explicitly asked the cabinet to look for the texts.

Instead, the EC requested other documents that fall under its internal criteria for recording, which doesn’t include text messages.

O’Reilly accused the Commission of “maladministration,” and urged the administration to conduct a more thorough search.

“When it comes to the right of public access to EU documents, it is the content of the document that matters and not the device or form,” she said in a statement back in January. “If text messages concern EU policies and decisions, they should be treated as EU documents.”

On Wednesday, the EC claimed to side with O’Reilly: “The Commission and the Ombudsman agree that what matters is the content of a document,” a spokesperson said in an email to Endpoints News. 

However, the Commission maintained that the texts were not registered as documents “due to their short-lived and ephemeral nature.”

“Text and instant messages in general do not contain important information relating to policies, activities and decisions of the Commission, nor are they in the possession of the institution,” the EC shared in a letter.

The administration added that it intends to issue further guidance on the use of “modern communication tools” such as text and instant messages to clear up any confusion.

“The Ombudsman could equally be invited to participate in those discussions, if she wishes to do so,” the statement said.

Pfizer declined to comment on the content of the text messages.

Stella Kyriakides

The EC struck its third vaccine deal with Pfizer and BioNTech last May, after its other major supplier AstraZeneca ran into production issues and announced it would significantly reduce deliveries.

The contract, which called for up to 1.8 billion doses through 2023, also reserved the EU right to resell or donate doses to countries in need.

“We need to be one step ahead of the virus. This means having access to adapted vaccines to protect us against the threat of variants, booster vaccines to prolong immunity, as well as protecting our younger population,” commissioner for health and food safety Stella Kyriakides said at the time.

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