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Cannabis black market still finding ways to thrive says criminologist

‘Complete eradication of black markets is not a realistic possibility’ says Saint Mary's University's Steven Schneider
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NSLC Cannabis store on Clyde St. (Meghan Groff/HalifaxToday.ca)

Cannabis was legalized earlier this month, and many people are wondering what will happen to the illegal black market that supplied the country for decades.

For Stephen Schneider, a criminologist at Saint Mary’s University and an expert in organized crime in Canada, it’s still too soon to tell.

“I think even the Liberal government recognized that it would take some time,” said Schneider in an interview with NEWS 95.7’s Sheldon McLeod.  “Even the complete eradication of black markets, I think is not a realistic possibility.”

Long lineups across the country at legal outlets selling the product on October 17 is certainly proof that the legal market is enticing, both for long time users and new users, but Schneider thinks the publicity of buying pot from a store front like the NSLC comes with disadvantages.

“I think there’s people that may not want to be spotted buying cannabis,” he said. Privacy is one of the black market’s advantages. 

With the consumer base for cannabis expanding due to legalization, the black market is adapting and finding new ways to beat out the legal sellers. One of the biggest ways they’re doing so is with price.

“A lot of people shop based on price, and right now the price is lower in the black market,” said Schneider. Black market cannabis sells for almost $2-3/g less than licensed stores he said.  

Schneider, who has spoken with a handful of black market sellers, said that they have no plans to shut down any time soon, especially with the growing success they’ve had with selling edibles, which won’t be legal for another year.

“They're starting to diversify,” he explained. “They’re starting to get into edibles and oils, they have delivery, they’ve got credit, so they’re really doing a number of things to try to capitalize on their own advantages in the black market.”

Schneider predicts that as the legal market begins to grow, the black market will see a small implosion, but nothing significantly damaging.

The black market has been around for longer, it’s users are comfortable and trust their sellers. The legal market has a big learning curve ahead of itself if it wants to beat out its illegal competitors.   

“There'll be some pressure put on the legitimate market to lower their prices,” said Schneider.

“You don’t want it so high that it’s going to encourage an existing black market. At the same time, they don't want to lower it too much to attract say youth, for example. So they're really walking that tight line.”




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Danielle McCreadie

About the Author: Danielle McCreadie

Danielle spent a year freelancing for various publications in Halifax and did a brief stint at HalifaxToday.ca before making the move to radio.
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