Why you should buy cannabis legally (and why some people aren’t)

Some super cool people still think it’s super cool to buy cannabis illegally. Here’s why they’re wrong.

By Chris D'Alessandro

2019-11-07

Last spring, a number of articles came out highlighting the slow rollout and adoption of legal cannabis in Canada, and how it was essentially taking a hot second to catch on — not immediately eliminating the black market sale of cannabis

Over the summer, the Toronto Star reported that illegal cannabis was still a source for four out of 10 users. 

Retailers were worried about possible product shortages and web site glitches. Additionally, many cannabis buyers initially complained about price. Seeing about a 15 percent to 20 percent mark-up over the familiar street price of around $7.20 per gram. These additional fees were due to taxes and fees that retailers were made to pay by law. 

This has since caused some super cool people, who are like, totally against the establishment and the government no matter what, to continue to purchase illegal cannabis

And hey, I get it. Old habits can be hard to break. You’ve been buying off Matt for 12 years now, he’s usually got some pretty primo shit, and he’s always been a pretty chill guy.

But the times they are a changin’, and even though Matt gave you your first white widow blunt and you were the first person he called when his six-foot tall glass bong arrived, there are some good reasons you should stop buying off of him. 

1. Remember the whole “illegal” thing? 

Buying cannabis through a non-sanctioned retailer is still very much illegal. 

Bill C-45, a.k.a. the Cannabis Act, states that “no person shall purchase cannabis except from an authorized cannabis retailer.” Violating the act can be met with a fine of up to $100,000 and imprisonment for up to one year.

Yes, it’s unlikely you would get smacked with a $100,000 fine. Likely you’d get a ticket ranging somewhere from $150 to $200, which, if your end goal is saving money, you’re not exactly coming out ahead.

It’s like not paying for a ticket to ride public transit. You might save in the short term, but it’ll cost you big time if you get caught. 

2. There’s no quality control.

Remember, in the distant past, like, two years ago when you never really knew what you were getting from your dealer? If it would be a mild, calming high, or a “bounce-off-the-walls” hyperdrive high? 

Sure. Matt might tell you that he has a “madman” — but that’s only because he just watched Pulp Fiction for the third time this week and he’s praying you catch on to the bit and start talking about how someone keyed your Impala. 

Even if Matt did have a pretty firm grasp on how his different strains affect most of his customers, he certainly doesn’t have the selection that a legal cannabis retailer would have. When you go to the black market, what you get is what your dealer happens to have. 

3. You don’t know who you’re truly supporting. 

Hey, Matt’s gotta eat. And the argument that you’d rather support him than a big cannabis corporation is a compelling one. 

And let’s face it, it’s going to be tough for Matt to find another job. You know it and I know it. 

What is he going to put on his resume? “Yeah basically since high school I’ve been sitting on my couch in LRG sweatpants, playing video games, watching daytime TV and breaking the law”? 

But the problem is you probably don’t know where Matt gets his cannabis from. You can bet it’s not from a legal source if he’s trying to undercut the legal retailers on price. 

And ask yourself, “Why would a cannabis grower NOT go legal?” It’s likely because they’re enjoying an illegal lifestyle. 

At the very best, Matt is buying from someone who is dodging taxes. At the worst, he may be purchasing from organized crime. And the thing with organizaed crime is they have multiple steams of revenue (read, “guns, hard drugs, human trafficking”). So you may be inadvertently funding some truly terrible black market activities. 

I know that sounds a little like conservative fear mongering; but why risk potentially funding a real criminal organization when you can purchase from a legal, ethical source? 

Historically, legalization has always been a way to choke off a source of revenue for organized crime. After all, how many bootleggers do you know? 

4. Legal cannabis may eventually be able to undercut the black market on price. 

But only if more people begin buying legally. Because producing en masse means efficiencies in cost. 

This isn’t just an economic theory. Mass production is already reducing the per-gram growing costs below $0.75 and some speculate it could be heading for $0.20.

Think of it like alcohol. Artisan-made cask-aged ale? Pricey. Mass produced Pabst Blue Ribbon? Not so much.  

Greater competition will also help to drive prices down. There are still entrepreneurs of all sizes entering the cannabis game and consumers are yet to decide any clear victors in the marketplace.  It’s also not clear if physical stores or online retailers will rule the day. 

While it’s true that physical stores have struggled (and in some cases gone bankrupt) against online competitors, hundreds of new cannabis stores are now opening. 

This is all to say that the consumer will have a huge amount of choice, combined with a greater market size, prices should become more competitive. 

5. It’s good for the economy. 

Every tax dollar not spent on enforcing the law against illegal cannabis distribution is one saved for more meaningful government initiatives. 

But of course, supporting legal cannabis goes far beyond just saving money. It’s a huge moneymaker and economy-booster. 

Currently, cannabis is contributing $8.26 billion to Canada’s economy. Despite some early ups and downs, stock prices have soared.

It also produces lots of jobs. 

And as of July, the cannabis industry has  9,200 people currently working in the sector, according to Statistics Canada. It won’t stop there. Big-money cannabis producers are scrambling for skilled workers

Cannabis businesses are also buying lots of real estate, including greenhouses, chocolate factories, and even indoor soccer fields for growing spaces. 

As a bonus, legal cannabis has also opened the door for research. Thanks to legal cannabis, we’re understanding more every day about how the cannabis plant’s cannabinoids can be used to treat ailments and diseases such as pain, anxiety, and cancer.

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