At the surface, Canada’s cannabis movement seems to be going along quite swimmingly, with a robust medical program already in place, and Trudeau’s government preparing to implement a nationwide recreational marijuana system by July 2018. However, a deeper look at the state of the country’s marijuana industry shows some prohibition-era issues that are still impacting the community.
Retail cannabis is not yet legal in Canada, but a number of medical dispensaries are opting to sell product without requiring a doctor’s prescription. Illegal marijuana storefronts have endured the wrath of police raids in cities like Toronto and Montreal, but that hasn’t stopped opportunists from trying to profit in the sizable grey area that exists between legalization and regulation.
The Toronto Sun recently conducted some first-hand investigative journalism on the matter, with reporter Sue-Ann Levy going “undercover” to multiple medical cannabis clinics to see how easily she could score weed without a doctor’s approval. According to the article, four out of the five Toronto shops she visited asked for photo ID, but not a valid prescription.
Instead, Levy was asked to fill out a form listing her “medical issues” and agree to a wide range of terms and conditions that included acknowledgment that what she was doing was technically “illegal.” One Canna Clinic denied her attempt at illegally purchasing medical pot, telling the reporter to return with a doctor’s note.
Levy claims there are 60 of these illegal dispensaries currently operating in the Toronto area alone, with a constant stream of complaints coming from both residents and businesses. Local police have expressed concern that organized crime groups are running some of these clinics, and that law enforcement lacks the resources to deal with them accordingly. The ongoing raids are usually effective in eliminating smaller illegal dispensaries, but larger Canna Clinics have financial backing that helps keep them afloat.
Although recreational legislation is on the horizon in Canada, this ongoing purgatory surrounding cannabis legalization will likely continue to run rampant until the system is set in stone. While illegal dispensaries are clearly stirring up some trouble in the community, the country is stuck deciding whether or not to fight a battle that will be null and void in the near future.