Biker Gangs are Selling Medical Marijuana at Illegal Dispensaries

Biker Gangs are Selling Medical Marijuana at Illegal Dispensaries Says the RCMP

As cannabis continues to gain legitimacy, the face of illegal drug dealing has radically changed. Back alleyways and dank, dimly lit basement apartments are no longer the go-to sources for illegal marijuana. Canadians are now treated to a greater degree of legitimacy, with the multitude of grey market dispensaries that have been established in anticipation of legalization.

Grey market dispensaries operate in a sort of legal grey area as their name implies. While not legitimate, these operations are generally tolerated by authorities. However, these dispensaries are subjected to periodic raids that, seize inventory, award owners with trafficking charges and temporarily shut down their enterprises. This can severely impact many business owner’s chances of participation in the impending legal, recreational cannabis economy.

As we will see, many of these grey market enterprises are simply legitimate business owners, attempting to get in on the action a little early. However, not all dispensaries are quite so benign.

The RCMP has recently uncovered a scheme, by which the Hell’s Angels and other Biker Gangs are selling medical marijuana at illegal dispensaries. This merits some investigation and has the potential to reshape the way in which Canadians perceive the current state of marijuana in Canada.

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Efforts to Curb Personal Grow Licenses

a personal grow license application, for Hell's angels to sell weed
The personal grow license… For some a life-saving way to grow medicine, but for Hell’s Angels, a way to weasel their way into the grey market (image via GROW Cannabis Marketing)

In 2014, the government of Canada attempted to overhaul the entire system by which medical marijuana was distributed. At the time 30,000 individuals were in possession of personal grow licenses. As the name suggests these people were permitted by Health Canada to cultivate their own cannabis.

Fearing that the system might be prone to abuse, the Canadian government sought to replace these small time growers entirely with larger producers. However, the idea was struck down in federal court as unconstitutional.

Fast forward to 2018, and these personal grow licenses are being exploited for profit by some of Canada’s most notorious biker gangs.

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The Hell’s Angels Become Certified Growers

The personal licenses, which are obtained through the mail, have fallen into the hands of a number of Hell’s Angels. However, as one undercover source within the RCMP explained, determining the identity of these growers is a difficult proposition.

“We often don’t have the resources to chase down the true identities behind the licenses,”
Using this legal method of producing cannabis, Hell’s Angels supply a number of grey market dispensaries across Canada under their ownership. 

Raf Souccar, a retired deputy commissioner of the RCMP and a member of the Trudeau government’s Cannabis Task Force, explained the criminal enterprise’s logic in

“Because if you’re able to supply that quantity of marijuana, you can’t do it growing it in your basement… Organized crime is behind most of these marijuana dispensaries. After all, it’s a $7-billion industry.”
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Working Within the System Rather than Outside of it

Hell's angels gangs
By exploiting the status quo of medicinal marijuana rather than operating outside of it, the Hell’s Angels have embedded themselves within the Canadian cannabis industry. 

Though subject to periodic raids, these do nothing to snuff out the existence of illegal cannabis dispensaries. Many of these lucrative marijuana stores are able to reopen the day after they’ve been raided. According to the CBC, this is because of the clandestine way in which these dispensaries operate. Often, frontline store workers have little knowledge of their employers and suppliers.

Those arrested during the raids are mostly storefront workers — some reporting to investigators they have never met the owner of the business, save for a few phone calls, and are paid in cash every other week.
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Consequences For The Post Legalization Landscape

Father daughter dispensary owners
While organized crime has managed to weasel its way into the grey market, Canadian should be cautious that potential, legitimate business owners aren’t swept up in a witch hunt (image via The Georgia Straight)

Many dispensary owners have claimed that ties to biker gangs are often fictitious tales used as an excuse to conduct raids.

Jodie Emery, an Ottowa dispensary owner, describes herself and many in her industry as “activists engaging in quiet civil disobedience” over prohibition. On the state of the cannabis industry, she said,

“I’ve never encountered any violence or danger in the marijuana industry,”

This is a far cry from a vile criminal underworld. Indeed, perhaps caution, skepticism, and scrutiny should be the orders of the day.

Hell’s Angels selling medical marijuana at grey market dispensaries is not an issue to be overlooked. Cannabis advocates have fought a long battle to bring legitimacy, recognition, and approval to this maligned substance. The fact that the black market is attempting to insidiously wrestle the control of cannabis from our hands should upset us all.

However, there remains a second issue that is equally, if not more dangerous to the public good. Many dispensary owners who have tried to prematurely enter into the marijuana trade are prospective small business owners.

Post-legalization these men and women are among the few Canadians with experience on the retail side of recreational marijuana. It would be of great benefit to society to bring these cannabis entrepreneurs under the scrutiny of government and thus help them transition into the new front line of Canada’s most profitable industry.

In other words, now that the RCMP has brought to our attention that biker gangs are selling medical marijuana at illegal dispensaries, let us rectify this issue. But let the removal of this tumor upon our marijuana industry be precise and surgical, rather than a broad witchhunt that kills the entire organism.

By: Stefan Hosko
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