Many Canadians believe that the legalization of recreational marijuana use will deal a crippling blow to organized crime. I’d love to be able to say that’s true, but I can’t.
Neither the marijuana market nor organized crime works the way that most Canadians I have spoken to – including members of the media, politicians and even some cops – believe it does.
The overwhelmingly popular belief is that there are colossal shipments of weed flooding over our borders from other countries, particularly from Latin America. It’s not true, and hasn’t been for a very long time. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2017 World Drug Report, Canada has the world’s eighth-biggest illegal marijuana crop – and is a net exporter. In fact, Canada is the leading supplier of illegal marijuana to several countries, including Japan and Australia, and sends a huge amount of weed south of the border.
The growth was, if you’ll forgive me, organic. For decades, Canadians who wanted weed had to buy it from a dealer who had received a shipment from California, Hawaii, Mexico, Jamaica or some other warm place. But there were some flaws in that economic plan. Supply was unpredictable, ripoffs and arrests were commonplace and prices were generally at the whim of the importer and dealer.
So, many Canadians started farming weed indoors. It began as a cottage industry, but is now among the country’s leading exports.
Another common misconception is that crime organizations in Canada make a significant amount of their revenue through domestic marijuana sales. They don’t, and haven’t for years. It’s simply not a good product for them. An ounce of weed is the size of a small sandwich, has a strong, easily detectable scent and retails for maybe $200. And it’s everywhere. But an ounce of cocaine is the size of a Brazil nut and sells for about $2,000. And it’s scarce. Besides, if a marijuana buyer doesn’t like your product, he or she will often walk away. For more habit-forming drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and prescription painkillers, they’re more or less a captive clientele.