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As Canada's Liberal government prepares to legalize recreational marijuana use this summer, the biggest remaining obstacle to regulated sales will be competition from a thriving black market, according to cannabis investors, researchers, policy analysts and government data.As the first major economy to fully legalize cannabis, Canada's regulatory rollout will be closely watched by other nations considering the same path – and by global investors, who have already poured billions into Canadian marijuana firms.Such illicit retailers may soon compete with new legal outlets, and many provinces plan initially to limit the number of government-operated or licensed stores.The cautious approach could restrain legal investment in a market estimated by Statistics Canada at 5.7 billion Canadian dollars (almost $4.4 billion) in 2017 . Ontario, Canada's most populous province, plans 40 government-run stores at first, rising to 150 by the end of 2020; Quebec, the second-largest, will start with 20 stores and decide the pace of expansion later.Recreational consumers who don't live near a legal store will be able to buy online.A survey by the Canadian health regulator Health Canada last year found that only 29 percent of those reporting medical cannabis use had a medical document from a health professional, a requirement for buying from licensed producers.
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