Canada Legalized Pot in October, But its Black Market is Still Going Strong

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Canada legalized pot in October, but its black market is still going strong By Selena Ross The Washington Post A man inspects plants at his small cannabis-growing operation near Crawford Bay, in British Columbia, Canada, on Nov. 7, soon after the country legalized recreational pot.

The legal cannabis stores that opened here last fall still look pristine. Curious customers file in, but the shelves they peruse are often bare. Supplies are so short the stores are shuttered three days a week.

A few blocks from one outlet, though, a longtime pot dealer was receiving a stream of text alerts one afternoon this winter, a sign of booming business.

When the government launched Canada’s official recreational-pot market on Oct. 17, it was banking on the idea that many users would prefer to buy legally and that the black market would quickly begin to fade. It says things seem on track, with “early reports of a 65 percent reduction for illegally sourced products,” according to a spokeswoman for the minister in charge of the cannabis file.

But there are also signs things aren’t going as expected.

In a national poll Ipsos conducted for Global News a month after legalization, more than a third of Canadian cannabis users said they were still buying from their regular dealers and hadn’t even tried the legal system. Five illegal sellers in Quebec told The Washington Post their sales are slightly up.

To the black marketeers, the bare-bones legal supplies are “pretty much a running joke,” said David, the busy Montreal dealer, who spoke on the condition that his last name not be used to avoid police attention.

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