Free cannabis giveaways paint a picture of what the post-legalization black market will look like, say experts

Free cannabis giveaways paint a picture of what the post-legalization black market will look like, say experts

By Perrin GrauerStarMetro Vancouver
Tues., Aug. 7, 2018

VANCOUVER—Two StarMetro reporters have been offered free cannabis by representatives of online dispensary services in recent days, which industry experts say is a sure sign of an illicit market rebound post-legalization.

Dana Larsen, director of the Vancouver Dispensary Society and Sensible B.C., said online dispensaries are likely making a bid for a customer base that will be left in the lurch come Oct. 17, when they discover their experience of cannabis purchasing has been radically altered by the governmental takeover of the formerly illicit market.

“We’re going to see more of (this type of cannabis giveaway) after legalization,” Larsen said, adding companies who undertake such campaigns are “probably making a lot of people happy giving away free cannabis, and I really don’t think anyone should be shocked or upset.”

StarMetro reporter Alex McKeen was relaxing with friends on Third Beach in Vancouver on Monday when a woman from TopLeaf online dispensary knelt down to offer her group a free joint “from TopLeaf.” McKeen, 24, was not asked her age.

After McKeen declined the offer, she witnessed the woman offering cannabis to a nearby group of people who accepted. The TopLeaf representative provided a lighter so they could smoke the joint right away.

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TopLeaf’s media director, who gave his name as Nathan W., said the giveaway is meant to raise awareness of TopLeaf’s online service and a particular brand of pre-rolled joints with which TopLeaf has partnered.

“The campaign we had going on during Pride is an ongoing endeavour,” Nathan W. said in an email. TopLeaf representatives attend events all over the country, he continued, showcasing brands and referring interested parties to TopLeaf’s online shopping resource for cannabis products and accessories.

Nathan did not respond to further questions about the legality of the practice or whether this business model was a response to concerns about the future viability of the brick-and-mortar dispensary model.

A “frequently asked questions” page on TopLeaf’s website states the company is “not operating under the federally approved medical marijuana system,” noting that law enforcement generally allows such businesses to exist so long as there are no sales to minors and no affiliation with organized crime.

Vancouver Police Department Sgt. Jason Robillard said the practice of businesses giving away free cannabis in public is currently illegal in the City of Vancouver.


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