What place do street dealers have in the legal weed economy?

What legalization in Canada means for street dealers
Some dealers estimate they will lose over 60 per cent of their income once marijuana is legalized in Canada. (Jim Mone/Associated Press)

Before licensed producers and marijuana dispensaries, pot smokers got their drugs from street dealers. With the appearance of numerous pot shops and impending legalization, the street dealers' livelihood is also changing.

Graham* has been dealing weed for 10 years, and it has been a lucrative business—especially, he says, with new storefront dispensaries taking Canadian cities by storm.

As Graham explained to Out in the Open producer Daniel Guillemette, supplying dispensaries with product can yield a big profit, because you can sell marijuana in bulk. And as Graham said, even after the Toronto police raid, his own business was doing as good as ever. He's confident that the business will always be there, no matter what happens.

But not all street dealers in Canada have Graham's confidence in the weed industry. Steven* grew up in one of the poorer Toronto neighbourhoods and has been dealing pot since his teenage years.

"People are doing this because they want to be able to provide and take care of the family." Steven told Daniel. "I'm kind of the bloodline to some people, to make sure people are able to eat and take care of themselves and whoever is behind them." For Steven, the number of people relying on his weed business is greater than the number of fingers on both hands.

"Well, your clients aren't going to come to you anymore. They're going to find the nearest dispensary and buy from there," Steven said. He estimates he would lose over half of his income if the drug becomes regulated by the government, and he won't be able to support himself or his family on minimum wage.

"Without it, there's no life, there's no eating. It's like having two broken legs."

*names have been changed due to the sensitive nature of the topic.

Thanks to Chris Murphy and Nathan Gorham for help with this segment.