Canada working on action plan against illegal online cannabis sales

Canada’s federal public safety ministry is working on a plan to thwart the country’s thriving online market for illegal cannabis, according to a recently-released briefing book for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.

Any clampdown on unlicensed online dispensaries – whether successful or unsuccessful – could have implications for their regulated competitors.

A redacted version of the briefing book, dated Nov. 20, 2019, was made public on Wednesday. A section on cannabis-related law enforcement informs the minister of his priorities in that area.

“Just as the legal supply of recreational cannabis is becoming more firmly established, the internet has evolved into a distribution channel for the illicit sale of drugs,” says the briefing.

“(Public Safety Canada) is working with federal, provincial and territorial partners to develop an action plan to disrupt online illicit cannabis sales.”

The public version of the briefing offers no details as to what that action plan might entail, but it does acknowledge that displacing Canada’s well-entrenched illicit cannabis market “will take time to achieve.”

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, who served as Canada’s Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction before Canada’s fall 2019 federal election, said last April that he was “aware of the challenge of illicit online (cannabis) sales.”

But curbing illicit online cannabis sales falls upon police at the federal, provincial and municipal levels, Blair told the Winnipeg Free Press last April, when he still held the border security portfolio.

Although Blair’s briefing book suggests illicit online cannabis sales are a recent phenomenon that coincides with legalization, British Columbia-based cannabis industry consultant Jamie Shaw says that is definitely not the case.

“They’ve been told about online dispensaries,” Shaw said in a phone interview with Marijuana Business Daily.

“When we were still trying to get legalization, and recreational stores licensed, we told them that this was a big part of the industry and that if they didn’t allow existing stores to get licensed then there would just be a lot more of it.”

Shaw expressed skepticism about the government’s unknown plan to disrupt unlicensed online cannabis dispensaries in Canada.

“We’re talking about using enforcement, again, as the hammer that has never worked on this nail. The smart thing to have done would have been to license brick-and-mortar stores, existing brick-and-mortar stores, license existing growers, and get them moving through the regulated system. By not doing that, you’re trying to close your hand around water – you’re not ever going to actually get a handle on it.”

Increasing access to licensed, regulated cannabis stores might help, Shaw added. But addressing price differences between unregulated and regulated cannabis could also play a role.

“It’s cheaper, still, and that’s an issue for a lot of people that just simply can’t afford to access from the legal system,” she said.

Solomon Israel is a reporter for Marijuana Business Daily, based in Winnipeg. He can be reached at [email protected]

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8 comments on “Canada working on action plan against illegal online cannabis sales
  1. Michael Corliss on

    Criminals commit crimes. It’s just what they will always do. They will never choose to be part of the legal industry because they are lazy and have zero concern about public health and safety.


    Online sales are intangible. But they are still delivered through tangible channels. Legal, physical, federal and private distribution channels. ie: Canada Post. Also UPS, etc.

    Enact a “this box looks suspicious” scan of goods.

  3. J on

    Legalization in Canada is a joke. Look at how most us states legalized cannabis. They let anyone grow and distribute, they allowed the sale of edibles, concentrates, flower, and other products with cbd and thc immediately. In Canada, they put a system in place that allows a small group of large corporations to control the growth, distribution, pricing, types of products made. There will forever be a huge black/grey market online for weed products because not only is there not enough out there in the legal system, there aren’t enough local stores, the pricing on everything that is allowed to be sold legally is outrageous. You can get flower at a quarter of the price per gram through other means than the legal stores. God, it’s pathetic that of all countries, Canada screws up the legalization of Marijuana horribly.

  4. Ashtonford on

    its not just the price its also the quality. The lps are mostly putting out low thc extremely poor quality cannabis. As long as they are doing this they will never make a go of it.

  5. Bud Durden on

    Online dispensaries are really on the only decent quality, fairly priced options in Canada to purchase cannabis. Anything government is garbage, the only way they can get people to buy their corporate cannabis is to force it down people’s throats. Great business model, I wonder why it isn’t working.

    I know some online dispensaries are losing their domain names to police confiscation but there are ways to protect against that or at least make it very hard for them to take it.

    I’ve been buying online from BC for years, this is not anything new. Blair is an ex-cop, he thinks like a cop, acts like a cop and stinks like a cop.

    • AManWithNoPresident on

      @bud Durden im not understanding this comment Bud. i’m a legal only buyer and ive been very impressed with my legal samplings about 3 out of 4 buys. you say that the legal stuff is bad, but i’ve had off the charts quality from flowr, Green Thumb Industries, and even Aurora’s broken coast. when you say government weed is garbage are you talking about the mid to low end? like canopy type growers?
      Genuinely interested in your reply because i keep hearing that government weed is bad but i have yet to be truly dissappointed with anything i’ve bought on either side of the border. maybe im just spending a lot more than the average joe.

  6. Michael Mendez on

    Ever hear of a “tax stamp” that enables the law to prosecute both the seller and the buyer. Those that get caught with a cannabis product without a tax stamp, whether they purchased or sold the product,is ticketed quickly ticketed and is required to send in a heavy fine (in direct relationship with the product). Such as $10 dollars a gram. But…to me it appears that many lawmakers in Canada are corrupt, wanting to get a foothold in the business before it really opened up, especially Ontario!


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