Legal Cannabis Versus the Black and Grey Markets of Canada

Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor and her parliamentary secretary, former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, say that the industry for legal cannabis will vary by province. Rules are being put in place for distribution, retail, and marketing. Blair says there is no “one-size-fits-all” strategy for legalization, and that provinces know their community best. He says,

“I’m really comfortable with leaving it up, for example, to the British Columbia government that knows its communities, that has a direct relationship with municipalities and local officials, to develop a distribution system that works in the context of British Columbia.”

But it was clear that the main goal of Blair and Taylor’s address was to outline that the current situation in Canada will come to an end. In addition, they said medical cannabis growers and illegal dispensaries are distributing their products to recreational users. Blair and Taylor believe the recreational system should be strict. They feel it should only loosen if data and research back up changes. Blair says,

“I don’t think we can get into this notion of there being anything that is grey. It is black-letter law.”

Challenges Await for the New Industry

legal cannabis
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses an audience discussing legalizing marijuana. Via CBC

Displacing existing infrastructure through which cannabis products are illegally sold will be a huge challenge. This is because these products are for sale in physical stores and on the internet across Canada.

Government’s are hoping that access to legal cannabis will convince consumers to buy through government-regulated retailers. Especially with police continuing to crack down on other outlets. One thing is for sure, if someone is making money and the government is missing out, there will be steep penalties.

According to Stats Canada, a recent study stated the underground cannabis industry moved over 600,000 kilos of dried product in 2016. That is astronomically higher than the over 30,000 kilos of dried cannabis and oil delivered by the federally regulated mail system. Taylor understands that the illegal market for cannabis will not disappear overnight, but says everyone should work together to protect young Canadians and eliminate criminal enterprises. Taylor says,

“The system is not going to be perfect in July, 2018, With respect to the black market, we certainly want to make a dent in it. Do we think it will happen overnight? Absolutely not.”