Ontario’s Cannabis: Reduced Markups


Ontario’s Cannabis: Reduced Markups

Ontario's Cannabis Industry Struggles Amid OCS's Markup Reduction

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The cannabis industry in Ontario, once seen as a lucrative venture, is facing challenging times, with financial troubles plaguing producers and retailers alike. As part of an effort to aid the struggling industry, the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), a Crown agency with a monopoly on legal cannabis distribution in the province, is set to make significant changes to its pricing structure in September.

Financial Woes in the Cannabis Sector

Amid a year of grim financial difficulties, cannabis companies are grappling with bankruptcy protection and layoffs. Notable names like Aleafia Health Inc., Fire & Flower, Tantalus Labs, and even Canopy Growth have faced hardships, leaving the industry in search of solutions to ensure survival.

George Smitherman, President, and CEO of the Cannabis Council of Canada, commends OCS’s initiative to reduce most wholesale markups. He believes this move will be beneficial for the cannabis industry, but many remain uncertain about the overall impact.

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Understanding the OCS Markup Reduction

The OCS currently applies an average wholesale markup of 31% on cannabis products, which significantly influences the end cost that consumers pay for pot. Starting in September, OCS aims to lower the markup rates to 25% for most cannabis products and 23% for dried flower, potentially relieving the industry of $60 million in costs annually.

David Lobo, President, and CEO of OCS, justifies the change by stating it brings the province more in line with other jurisdictions and enhances the competitive edge for consumers. However, the extent to which this reduction will affect pot prices remains uncertain.

Impact on Pot Prices

The reduced markups may or may not translate into lower retail prices for consumers. While some believe that licensed producers may pass on their savings to consumers, others are skeptical. Cameron Brown, Communications Officer for The Hunny Pot, a prominent cannabis retailer with 20 locations across southern Ontario, doubts that retail pricing will see significant changes.

Competition and Lowering Prices

Despite squeezed margins, Michael Armstrong, an associate professor at Brock University, points out that competition has played a role in lowering prices since 2019. Licensed producers and retailers may consider passing on their savings from the reduced OCS markups to consumers to further carve out market share from illicit dealers.

The Persistent Illicit Market

Even five years after legalization, the illicit market continues to account for over 40% of cannabis sales in Ontario. To remain competitive, licensed retailers may have to explore further markup reductions.

OCS’ Strategy to Boost Private-Sector Retailers

As OCS reduces its wholesale markups, it plans to increase the markup on products sold directly to consumers from its own website. This move aims to give private-sector retailers a better chance to compete with OCS on price.


While Ontario’s move to lower its markups on pot is a step in the right direction for the struggling cannabis industry, the actual impact on consumer prices and businesses’ bottom lines remains uncertain. The reduction may offer some relief, but it’s clear that the road to profitability in the cannabis sector is still filled with challenges. As the industry grapples with these changes, the hope is to strike a balance between reducing pot prices and bolstering the financial viability of licensed businesses.


  1. Will the reduction in OCS markups lead to significantly lower pot prices for consumers?
    • While the reduction is expected to have some impact, the actual extent of price reductions is uncertain, as it depends on how producers and retailers decide to pass on their savings.
  2. What challenges are cannabis companies facing in Ontario?
    • Cannabis companies are dealing with financial troubles, bankruptcy protection, layoffs, and fierce competition from the illicit market.
  3. Is the cannabis industry in Ontario profitable overall?
    • Many cannabis companies are currently struggling to be profitable due to various factors, including fees, taxes, and markups.
  4. Why is the OCS reducing its markups on cannabis products?
    • The OCS believes that reducing markups will make its pricing more competitive with other jurisdictions and help the struggling cannabis industry.
  5. How significant is the illicit market for cannabis in Ontario?
    • Estimates suggest that the illicit market still accounts for over 40% of cannabis sales in Ontario, posing challenges for legal retailers.