Legal vs. Illegal Dispensaries

Legal vs. Illegal Dispensaries. Buying weed is Canada is complicated because there are so many different ways to get it. We receive so many questions that we wrote an article to help our clients understand the current cannabis landscape. Here are some of the questions we consistently get:

I’m new to buying weed. It’s legal now, right? I’ve heard the term “grey area”. What is that, and do I need to be concerned? I heard that some of the websites are still illegal. How do you tell the difference? Is it ok to buy from them? I’ve heard they are better, is that true?

It’s legal now, right?

Yes. Weed is legal. Canada is the second country after Uruguay to federally legalize cannabis. It became official on October 17th, 2018. However, cannabis in Canada has a long history of social acceptance since before it was federally legalized. As a result, the situation has become quite complicated.

Grey area? Black market? White market? LPs?

There are 3 ‘markets’ in Canada. First, there is the black market. This is the traditional way to buy weed. This connection to buying weed is usually called your “dealer” or “plug”. The black market basically describes street dealers. These individuals often sell other illicit, illegal drugs like MDMA, cocaine and magic mushrooms.

Next is the grey market. This describes online mail order dispensaries, physical location dispensaries, and delivery services. These organizations (for the most part) only sell cannabis. They do not deal other illicit drugs. They take a open retail approach, aiming to provide the ethical and quality cannabis to Canadian consumers. This industry has been thriving for a decade and offers high quality cannabis products to an enormous loyal customer base.

Last of all is the white market, which is the legal retail space. This system is provincially regulated under the Cannabis Act. Provincially approved cannabis stores can purchase product only from licensed producers that follow Health Canada, provincial, and federal regulations. The processes for how marijuana is sold is a little different province to province. That is because the federal government legalized cannabis, but left it up the each province to regulate it the way they see fit.

Does that mean grey market websites are illegal?

Technically, yes. But it’s more complicated than that when it comes to legal vs. illegal dispensaries. Many of these websites used to physical stores but had to move online when the government started opening their own shops and threatened millions of dollars of fines. The provincial and federal governments made it very difficult for grey market illegal dispensaries to move into the legal space. As a result they moved to the internet to still be able to provide their clients with top quality cannabis products.

Why would I buy from an illegal website over a legal one?

First of all, remember that as the consumer, you are not a target. Any legal action taken on the grey or black market is aimed at the seller, not the buyer. The biggest problem in Canadian cannabis right now is that in terms of product quality, the legal market is decades behind the illegal market. For the advanced and informed cannabis user, it’s widely accepted that most cannabis produced by licensed producers is sub-par. Some of it is improving, and it will all get better eventually. But the problem remains that right now, most of it sucks. It is also much more expensive than grey and black market cannabis.

In summary, many grey market mail orders and delivery services offer superior quality product at better prices than legal cannabis stores. If you as the purchaser are not at legal risk, you options open up. It seems obvious to at least consider the higher quality, better value cannabis products as a buying option.

How do you tell the difference between a legal and illegal online dispensary?

There are ways to spot the difference, although at first glance most illegal mail order marijuana sites seem totally legal. You’re asked to confirm you’re of legal age, upload identification to make sure, and sometimes even pay provincial and federal tax. So how do you tell the difference?

The first thing is look at where they ship to. All legal cannabis stores only sell and ship product to citizens within that province or territory. This is a result of provincially regulated systems. It is very similar to purchasing alcohol. Second, check if their products have an excise tax stamp. All legal products are required to have this. If the packaging of all the products looks very minimalistic, you’re probably on a legal site. Illegal sites have no regulations on packaging, which results in full colour and various full label designs. Last of all, you can go onto provincial websites to determine if the website is registered. They are all listed here.

Do your own research

If you want to buy from an illegal website because of superior product quality, that’s a totally viable option. Just make sure you do some research first. Enter the name of the site in a google search with “reviews” to see what other people have to say about the website. If it’s not a legitimate one, or a scam, you’ll definitely find complaints online. Conversely, if it’s an awesome and dependable operation, you’ll probably find excellent reviews! We hope yon enjoyed Legal vs. Illegal Dispensaries. Hopefully it helps you explore your options.