Ottawa

Pot users still turning to black market, stats show

Nearly six months after legalization, one in every three Canadian cannabis users is still buying their weed on the street, according to new statistics.

6 months after legalization, 38 per cent of cannabis users continue to buy on the street

Nearly one in three cannabis users continues to buy their pot on the street, Statistics Canada says. (Shutterstock/Syda Productions)

Nearly six months after legalization, one in every three Canadian cannabis users is still buying their weed on the street, according to new statistics.

According to Statistics Canada's National Cannabis Survey, which covers the first quarter of 2019, 38 per cent of Canadian pot consumers continue turning to the black market.

It just comes down to dollars and cents.- Jonathan Hull, cannabis user

That's despite Ontario's online cannabis retailer going live on Oct. 17, and Ottawa's first bricks-and-mortar pot shops opening their doors April 1.

Most customers who are eschewing those legal sources say they're too expensive.

"It just comes down to dollars and cents," Jonathan Hull told CBC. "An ounce on the streets is going for about anywhere from a $160 to $180, and in [licensed shops] you're going to be paying $260 to $280."

Hull said the stores have their allure, but for him, they're still not worth it.

"The convenience of those stores is a nice thing, to be able to just pop into a store here when you need something is really good. But I still go onto the black market quite frequently, just due to the cost."

Erica Martin says she purchases pot at Hobo Recreational Cannabis Store on Bank Street for convenience, but still turns to an illegal source, too. (Haneen Al-Hassoun/CBC )

Nearly $3 cheaper on street

Since the drug was legalized last fall, Canadians purchasing cannabis from legal sources have paid an average of $9.99 per gram, while those getting it from illegal sources have paid an average of $6.37 per gram, according to Statistics Canada.

People will go where they get a better deal.- Rosalie Wyonch, C.D. Howe Institute

According to Eugene Oscapella, an Ottawa-based lawyer and professor of criminology and drug policy at the University of Ottawa, a shortage since legalization of both product and the shops selling it have helped turn customers back to more familiar sources.

"People are naturally going to continue to go to the illegal market, and many people have longstanding relations with the people who've been selling them cannabis in the past,"  Oscapella said.

Rosalie Wyonch, a policy analyst at the C.D. Howe Institute in Toronto, predicts the black market is here to stay until the price of legal pot drops.

"Until the price of legal marijuana is comparable to that in a black market, you're always going to see some consumption in the black market simply because people will go where they get a better deal," Wyonch said.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.