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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15 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.

    • Richard Young on

      what? you clearly don’t have a clue what you are talking about the average drug dealer spends more time working then the average Canadian for one thing… the other is legal market will never compete with the black market because of government involvement in the process. rather then just regulating the product. when you are able to buy better product for a cheaper price and have it delivered with in 3 hours the legal market will never compete. the simple fact that you can go on skip the dishes and buy 20 bottles of vodka but cant buy a gram of weed… you have to just shake your head at the stupidity of the Canadian governments deployment and money grab.


    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.

      • keven on

        Here in QC we have SQDC they cannot give me the best quality and on top of that they want me to pay a lot more like 70-90$ more per once and it is far from the quality i get from black market and guess what you can’t see it nor smell it before you buy it. They don’t have any vape product nor any concentrate either, it’s like they’re asking us not buy from them.

      • Richard Young on

        yes he is talking about mid tier products as that is mostly what is in stock… no one wants to pay 80 bucks for prem legal weed that i have to go somewhere to pick up. When i place a phone call get the same quality or better for $50 bucks and if you buy weight its even worse. go into a dispensary and ask for a full ounce of there top shelf product and prepare to spend 220+ for it… i get that same stuff for 140.

  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!

  7. Jangus on

    I have never bought from the “legal” channels and, unless they seriously change, I never will. Where I am located the black market is selling the same products found in the “legal” stores at half the price. There is also a much larger selection in the black market. Fortunately a recent investigation has shown the dispensaries have only made about 20% of projected profits and some are looking at closing their doors. I say good, there needs to be a serious retake on how this whole system works. Trying to stop “illegal” online dispensaries is not going to make people buy from “legal” ones. When the black market runs dry I dont go to a dispensary, I wait until the dealers restock. Trying to stop the black market is just going to cause the dealers to get creative and just come up with new methods of doing the same thing like they always have. If going after the black market worked in the first place there wouldn’t even be one right now.

  8. JimmyJack on

    As long as the government run cannabis stores continue selling garbage then people will find another way. I just shake my head when I read that these cannabis stores were losing millions of dollars in some locations. Funny thing that they’re losing millions but when the illegal dispensaries were up and running all over the place some of them were raking in the cash. It’s not rocket science, a vast majority of people who smoke cannabis, especially long time smokers, absolutely always want the highest quality product they can find and they will go out of their way, spend more or travel longer distances to buy the better product. I would rather spend double for high quality weed than buy $120 ounces of garbage. And the cannabis stores aren’t even giving good deals for the low quality bland garbage they sell. If they want to make money then open up the sourcing of their products to private suppliers so they can get the real good stuff. We don’t need multi-million dollar corporations producing our marijuana for us, when have corporations ever cared about providing high quality goods for the consumer?

    • andre on

      exactly this!! this is my opinion on this too. Im also super amused by these government run shops trying to sell shake for overpriced amount. And they call it shredded weed or someshit lol

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