Article by KOKO gurl, Cannabis Culture
Most may be surprised to learn that Canada’s largest black market involves the very same substance the government has recently deemed to be legislated as “not illegal.” But for many otherwise law-abiding members of society, “not illegal” doesn’t mean “legal” either. Members of this enormous underground market aren’t tattooed thugs or violent criminals—they’re parents, grandparents, teachers, community members, professionals, and others who prefer to buy and sell medical marijuana through local dispensaries and consume it at lounges rather than depend on corporate businesses hand-selected by government organizations like the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).
Many of Canada’s medical marijuana dispensary and lounge owners prefer to consider themselves part of the country’s “grey market” because their status under the newest marijuana laws is ambiguous at best. Although they want to be (and are) productive members of society, the businesses they’ve built are most likely to be made illegal again even after the government sought public input on its marijuana supply and consumption laws.
Read on to learn why the Canadian government’s plan for total control of this area seems likely to lead to a much more robust underground market for the sale and consumption of marijuana, even though the vast majority of dispensary and lounge proprietors want nothing more than to become/remain legal, tax-paying business owners.
What Exactly Did the Voters Approve?
The only “legal weed” available in Ontario beginning in the summer of 2018 is medical marijuana, available to those who have a documented medical condition eligible for this treatment. Medical marijuana will be tightly controlled by the LCBO and may only be delivered to consumers by government-licensed producers who send it via Canada Post. To begin the advent of legal marijuana in Ontario, government permits are only going to be issued to around 150 stores that are run by the LCBO. Dispensaries, including online dispensaries, are technically considered illegal without a permit, as are lounges that offer medical marijuana to cardholders or delivery services that promise quick door-to-door service of edibles, buds, waxes, oils, or other forms of cannabis.
Meanwhile, Quebec has a recreational marijuana bill pending in the Senate, and the Minister of Public Health himself has said that the government is reaching out to private suppliers so it will be “ready to move” when marijuana is made legal. While many government projects have open and transparent bidding processes, five of the six suppliers selected by the Quebec government isn’t even based in the province, a seeming slap in the face to local suppliers who would like to stay competitive (and legal). Cannabis-friendlier British Columbia has eliminated the contracting process entirely and has instead announced plans for standalone government marijuana shops.
Before the passing the Cannabis Act, the government held a number of public forums designed to solicit public input and take the temperature of the public opinion on the legalization of medical marijuana. However, despite great public support for the services provided by current dispensary owners, lounge owners, and delivery drivers, it appears that the government is pushing for total control of the entire industry—regardless of the legal and financial impact this control may have on those brave entrepreneurs who first carved out a place for marijuana at the table.