Article by Global News
From texting a local dealer to dropping into a neighbourhood dispensary or ordering online, Canada’s black market for recreational marijuana has seen significant changes in recent years and, no doubt, will see more as the country hurtles toward a new world of legalization next summer.
What does seem clear, however, is that the illegal market is unlikely to disappear in a puff of smoke come legalization day.
“There’s a huge, complex system out there operating in the world that has been delivering excellent product to people at reasonable prices for 40 years now,” says Donald MacPherson, the executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, an organization based out of Simon Fraser University that advocates for evidence-based policy-making and harm-reduction strategies.
“It’s really the degree to which the regulated system can, over a period of years, encroach on as much of that pre-existing market as possible – that is the key question.”
Talking to users quickly reveals three major strands that make up the current system, starting with the traditional approach: knowing a guy who knows a guy who gets you your pot. It’s familiar, it’s trusted, it feels safe.
More recently, street-level dispensaries have offered a somewhat normal retail store-front experience, though some offer only delivery, but perhaps the biggest change has been in what appears to be a very Canadian phenomenon: the burst of website-based mail-order marijuana suppliers, or MOMs as they are known.
A plethora of websites now feature different cannabis products along with prices and, in some cases, testimonials, contests, specials, and freebies. Most ask for proof of age in the form of an uploaded ID document – 18 or 19 is generally minimum – and payment takes place via Interac. The vacuum-packed product is shipped to the buyer via Canada Post or courier.
Francois, 34, an IT professional in Quebec City, says he now buys exclusively online.
“The convenience factor is what brought me there,” says Francois, who like other users interviewed for this article only wants his first name used. “It’s delivered to your doorstep. It’s super easy, it’s super discreet.”