Canadian Dealers Are Disguising Black Market Weed as Legal Product
Facing increased competition from legal retailers, black market dealers are upping their game, creating authentic-looking sales websites and fake warning labels.
Published on June 25, 2019

As legal weed sales begin to cut into their market share, Canada's black market pot dealers are brainstorming new ways to keep turning a profit. In Saskatchewan, unlicensed sellers have recently been caught using fake product labels to trick buyers into thinking that black market grass is actually legal product.

When drawing up the regulations governing adult-use sales, Canadian lawmakers chose to temper the excitement of legal weed by creating a strict set of packaging laws designed to make sales as boring as possible. All cannabis products must be packaged in child-resistant, single-color packages, devoid of any flashy logos or even pictures of the product. Additionally, every package must have a “stop-sign” symbol with a pot leaf and the letters “THC,” along with a number of public health warnings.

Related: Here's What Fake Vape Cartridges Actually Look Like

But retailers in Saskatoon report they have discovered black market weed packaged with fake labels that comply with the government's packaging regulations. Although these labels are often missing critical information contained on legal packaging, the end result is convincing enough to fool the average customer into thinking these products are legit. Some dealers have even been selling these products via websites designed to trick buyers into thinking they are purchasing from a legal establishment.

"You can order cannabis from black market means," Chase Ruttig, assistant manager of Prairie Records, a legal cannabis store in Saskatoon, told CBC News. "When those labels are confusing and have Health Canada labelling on it, it makes it even harder for customers to differentiate what's a legal, regulated Health Canada-tested product, and what is something from the grey market or the black market that could get them in trouble." 

Ruttig recommended that any customer confused about the legality of a weed product or website should contact one of the province's legally-sanctioned retailers. "There are a lot of things that somebody who isn't as initiated in cannabis may be confused about," he told CBC. "We just want to clear those things up so people are making a conscious decision when they purchase their cannabis and know what's above board and what might be risky for them." 

The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA), which is the sole entity authorized to distribute cannabis in the province, said that they are aware of this new scam. "SLGA is aware of the illegal cannabis with packaging designed to look like official Health Canada approved product," SLGA spokesperson David Morris said in a statement. "Whenever SLGA becomes aware of information like this, we share it with Health Canada and the police."

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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