Canada legalized marijuana beginning Oct. 17, and officials in the country’s individual provinces and territories will decide how the new system will roll out in each place. So far in British Columbia, marijuana sales have been stifled by a lack of supply and a rotating postal strike, the latter causing delivery challenges.
Only one brick-and-mortar store is operational in B.C., located in Kamloops, about 220 miles northeast of Vancouver. Online sales are underway in the meantime; all sales are regulated by the province’s Liquor Distribution Branch.
Jonathan Heidt, assistant professor of criminology at University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, says increased supply and more storefronts are needed if the new system is expected to put a dent in the black market.
“[To] have any kind of impact on organized crime, they are going to have to get stores up and running sooner rather than later,” Heidt said.
Kennedy Stewart, Vancouver's mayor-elect, says the city won't be "busting heads" over illicit pot shops or small growing operations, to give the cannabis industry time to adjust to legalization. Still, some unlicensed shops have closed to pursue licenses under the new system, forcing those customers to temporarily look elsewhere for product.
Many dispensaries have chosen to stay open while waiting for their license applications to be processed, selling black-market cannabis amid a lack of access to the legal supply chain.
Stewart says the phrase "black market" sounds nefarious, but it also includes people growing pot in their backyards illegally, so he doesn't think it makes sense to start cracking down.