Even though cannabis is legal recreationally, many Torontonians still favour buying from the black market. Eliminating illicit activity has been a central pillar of legalization but supply shortages and limited access have allowed the underground market to thrive.
Besides the online Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), there are only a handful of (legal) brick and mortar stores presently open in all of Toronto. For a city with over 2.5 million residents, five stores will definitely not suffice.
The black market has been extremely successful in tapping into all the shortfalls of the legal industry. According to Scotiabank, illegal cannabis is dominating the market, and is estimated to comprise 71% of all federal sales in 2019.
Price and prejudice
Torontonians have many reasons to buy from the black market. First, unlike the legal industry, which is facing intense cannabis shortages, underground cannabis is bountiful and is much cheaper as a result. Second, products like edibles and concentrates, which are not yet legal, are available. Third, many users feel that LP’s industrial growing practices produce lower quality strains, unlike non-licensed craft growers who are praised for their quality. Lastly, buying illegally is more convenient because the number of black market shops, both physical and online, greatly exceed legal outlets.
Toronto’s underground market is constantly changing and it’s not always easy to know whether your go-to source is still around. Until the legal market can compete, physical stores and online dispensaries are determined to stay open to serve Torontonians high quality, low cost marijuana.
Illegal brick & mortar dispensaries
Toronto’s illegal dispensaries have been able to withstand constant police raids and seizures, with some re-opening their doors merely a day after all their supply was seized. Permanently closing a shop is difficult because authorities are only allowed to arrest someone if they refuse to identify themselves and managers are hardly ever around anyway. Toronto’s marijuana demand makes it worth it for some store owners to pay the fines and re-open.
Torontos most popular chain of blackmarket joints is CAFÉ. With a trendy coffee bar in the front, this dispensary initially looks and feels like any normal café but visitors have to pass this area to see the goodies in the back, which they can get to by presenting a valid ID. As of early April, they have locations in Kensington Market, CityPlace, and one on Bloor West.
Illegal online delivery services
Online mail-orders are becoming Toronto’s favourite source for buying cannabis because they’re convenient and discrete. The number of online dispensaries is increasing because they’re not susceptible to the same pressure from authorities experienced by physical stores. The biggest advantage are the promotions for free cannabis and the ability to pay by e-transfer, providing access to customers who don’t have credit cards.
Buying from an online retailer is becoming so commonplace that some customers don’t even realize they’re buying from an illicit source. Websites are designed to look like they are medically licensed, with detailed product lines and reviews, FAQ pages, and 24-hour customer service.
Here are some of Torontonians favourite online dispensaries:
Cannaworld.ca is one of the top mail order marijuana retailers because all their products are lab tested.
Canadablissherbals.com have nearly every type of cannabis product and accessory imaginable. Edibles, hash, vape pens, grinders; you name it, they got it.
Buymyweedonline.ca is one of the largest online retailers. There product selection is so extensive they even sell kosher products. Customers love this website because they’re reliable. If your marijuana gets lost in transit, they’ll reship your same order at no cost.
Too good to puff puff pass
For many, the selection and savings of black market cannabis are too good to pass up. Canada’s regulatory market is moving at a glacial pace, giving illegal outlets plenty of time to take advantage of the industry’s gaps. There’s progress but it won’t be another few years, until the legal industry will be close to overtaking the black market.
The Ford government recently announced their increased commitment to cracking down on illegal dispensaries but they’ve been saying this since legalization with little success. As long as Toronto’s demand continues, illicit retailers will find a way to stay open to serve the city’s needs.