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Canadians already consume almost as much weed as wine, and it’s not even legal yet

Canadians consumed as much as C$6.2 billion ($4.8 billion) of marijuana in 2015, almost as much as they spent on wine, the federal statistics agency said Monday as it gears up to officially track weed when it becomes legal next year.

The agency calculated the value by estimating 4.9 million people consumed 698 metric tons of cannabis that year, at an assumed price range of C$7.14 to C$8.84 a gram. It used government health and social surveys and outside research to create its model.

Statistics Canada called its report “Experimental Estimates of Cannabis Consumption in Canada, 1960 to 2015” and admitted there is “currently no systematic process” for measuring usage. The agency warned its estimate for the market is very rough, and actual consumption could “reasonably” be as low as half or as much as double.

Nonetheless, annual consumption appears to be one-half to two-thirds the size of the C$9.2 billion beer market, or almost as much as the C$7 billion wine market, the agency reported.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has committed to full legalization of recreational use by July next year, a move that’s created a surge in the share prices of producers. Governments have said even as they aim to keep taxes on legal weed low to squeeze out criminal dealers, the new market may generate C$400 million a year in revenue.

CannTrust Holdings Inc. Chief Executive Officer Eric Paul said that while it may take three years for the legalized market to reach its full potential, he is already expanding his greenhouse space to take advantage of the potential. “The near term challenge will be sufficient supply to meet the government demand,” he said in a phone interview.