As Canada heads towards the legalization of cannabis later this year, an industry expert has compared unlicensed weed delivery services to cockroaches. Ian Dawkins is the acting president of the Cannabis Commerce Association of Canada. He believes that regulators will not be able to eliminate illicit operators.
“They are like the cockroaches of this biosphere,” Dawkins told the CBC. “You will never destroy a dude on his bicycle with a cellphone delivering weed.”
He believes that once legalization comes, tight regulations on legal businesses will create a lucrative market for unlicensed ones. Governments are “setting themselves up for a lot of competition from the grey market,” he said.
“If you’re a law-abiding citizen and you go to the Ontario cannabis store and there’s nothing on the shelves, you pretty much feel entitled to dial up your guy. That’s pretty much the end of enforcement at that point,” he added.
Police Cite Lack of Resources
While much of Canada is still creating cannabis regulations, Vancouver, B.C. passed a medical marijuana bylaw in 2015. Since then, unlicensed pot shops and delivery services have popped up along with legal ones. Illicit firms operate openly, often advertising their businesses with street placards and store signage. Vancouver Constable Jason Doucette said that police can’t keep up with enforcement of illegal operators.
“Although these online (and) storefront dispensaries are essentially trafficking controlled substances, there is not enough manpower and time to conduct these investigations due to the sheer number of these operations,” Doucette said. “Police resources are very limited in terms of investigating cannabis offenses, among the other workload that members have been given.”
In Vancouver, bylaw compliance officers regularly issue citations to illegal businesses. But city officials say that the tickets, which carry a fine of $1,000, get paid only 15 percent of the time. City inspectors also file zoning violations against landlords who rent space to illegal cannabis businesses. Vancouver has legal action pending against 53 unlicensed marijuana shops. The city will ask the B.C. Supreme Court to shut them down when it hears the case in September. And in a statement, officials said the city will enhance enforcement against unlicensed operators after legalization. However, they have not yet released any details of their plan.
Legalization Coming to Canada This Year
The Canadian government plans to repeal cannabis prohibition nationwide this year. The House of Commons passed the Cannabis Act, or Bill C-45 as it is also known, in November 2017. The bill cleared a second reading in the Senate in March of this year. The Senate plans to vote on final passage on Thursday of this week. Then the Act will head back to the House of Commons, where MPs will vote to concur with amendments made in the Senate.
Once all that happens, both use and possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana by adults will be legal. Despite the slow progress, Senator Tony Dean, the sponsor of Bill C-45, told the Toronto Sun he is confident the Cannabis Act will succeed.
“What I can tell you after 14 months in Parliament and review by five committees of the Senate and there again in committee and by third reading, we will have exhausted our examination of this legislation and every Senator will know everything that she or he needs to know to make an informed decision. Look, I think this is good public policy. I think that the vote will be affirmative. I think our legislation will pass. ”