Will Legalized Pot Wipe Out the Black Market in Canada?

Barring anything unforeseen, Canada will be rolling out legalized marijuana on July 1st, 2018, though less than one year before then, the politicians and provinces are still scrambling to decide on the particulars.

Among the most prominent questions:

  • Where can you buy it?
  • Where can you smoke it?
  • How old must you be?

Another question is price: what is a fair price to charge that is not so much that people will again turn to illegal sources for their pot? In addition to reflecting a more liberal view of cannabis, one of the main ideas behind legalization was to use it as a way to stamp out this black market. Here (in theory) would be a way for people to buy pot with consistent THC levels, in a safe environment, with the money going to the government, instead of some criminal gang.

However, things look to be off to a rocky start, if Ontario’s recent legal parameters are any indication. The number of locations announced in the province seems foolishly low considering the potential sales base (especially during the early months). And the refusal to allow sales anywhere but in government run stores, a la the LCBO, also makes it difficult to for some to obtain their marijuana, outside of ordering it online.

While few are asking that all restrictions be removed, some areas that remain criminalized (such as the limit on how high personal marijuana plants can grow) seem very foolish and will almost certainly have the opposite of the desired effect.

While this was always going to be a big change in the social fabric of Canada, it seems like the government will be playing catch-up for some time to come. Expect many complaints during the early days of legalization and the government to backtrack on and change some aspects of their rules.

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