Cannabis Culture

Why do Canadian cannabis users still buy black or grey market product?

Why are some people still buying black market cannabis?

Legalizing cannabis was originally intended to curb the illegal drug trade, but authorities in many jurisdictions are still seizing record numbers of black market products. Even in legal dispensaries, some of the products that are sold are technically illegally cultivated. With so many legal products available, why are many users of cannabis still relying on black and grey market sellers to get cannabis?

Where are all the legal dispensaries?

Although legalization proved useful for Canadians living in big cities, many rural areas are not currently serviced by any cannabis retailers. Smaller communities throughout Canada must either drive to a larger city in order to have access to legal cannabis, or order online via grey market services. The territories suffer from this more than any other province except Quebec. 

Also, some provinces allowed private stores to open, while others did not. What this means is that British Columbia and Ontario residents have less access to cannabis dispensaries than Albertans, for example. Alberta has allowed private enterprise within the cannabis industry in the province, which has meant that for every 10,000 residents, there are 2.12 dispensaries – more than double the national average. 

Which is more convenient, legal or grey market dispensaries?

Another consideration that cannabis users in Canada make is convenience. If you do not live near a dispensary, or if you’re just an incredibly busy person, taking the time out of your day to visit a legal dispensary might sound like simply too much work. Buying from online grey or black market retailers allows cannabis users to order cannabis with nearly the same convenience as any other online shopping experience. 

Are the prices different between legal and grey or black market cannabis?

Supply and demand usually dictate the prices of various goods within our capitalist society. However, the legal cannabis market is a government controlled market, so the government has a pretty significant say in what the price of cannabis is. That means that they can set a higher or lower price than grey or black market retailers. 

Just after legalization, a poll found that, for 40% of Canadian cannabis users, whether a person buys legal or grey market pot is determined by price. The grey and black market existed before the legal cannabis market, which means that the government of Canada had to provide some pretty solid economic incentive in order to appeal to many Canadians. In a world currently rife with inflation, prices are a big motivator!

Is there a difference in quality between legal and grey or black market cannabis?

One of the biggest differences between the legal and grey or black market is standarized quality control. The legal market is subject to testing and regulations, where each product must adhere to a certain level of quality. This means that when you buy a particular strain or product and then enjoy it, you can revisit that exact same product and expect to have the same experience. This is not necessarily the case in the grey and black market.

Retailers who do not dispense legal products are subject to the product available from growers who do not have Canadian licenses. What that means for the customer, is that there can be incredible variation from crop to crop. While you might buy one strain and have an amazing experience, when you buy that strain again it could be of slightly or even incredibly different quality than the first time you bought it.  

Are the products different in the grey or black market?

Up until recently, edibles were disallowed in many provinces. That meant that people who preferred to ingest their cannabis rather than smoke or vape it, had to make their own edibles from legal flower if they wanted to only buy legal products. People without the knowledge or time to do so were more inclined to buy products from the grey market because there are many delicious snacks available. As the legal market allows more edibles into retail spaces, though, that may begin to change. 

Overall, users may continue to use the grey or black market sites and dispensaries that they are familiar with. Until there is no discernible difference in location, convenience, or quality, cannabis users will likely continue to go with whatever option is best for them. 

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