The Canadian government and media aren't painting an accurate portrait of the black market for marijuana, according to a report released last week by researchers for the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC). Their recommendations - which are being sent to Canada's marijuana task force - call on the government to base regulations on research instead of rhetoric.
One of the primary offenders in misrepresenting the black market is none other than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. When discussing legalization last December, Trudeau said, "We need to make sure we're keeping our kids safe and keeping our communities safe by removing the black market and the criminal gangs and the street organizations from [the marijuana trade]."
The only problem with that argument is that street gangs and crime syndicates aren't overly involved in the black market for marijuana.
"The evidence base suggests that despite the illicit nature of the current cannabis market, it is not dominated by organized crime but rather by otherwise law-abiding citizens," the CDPC report reads.
Researchers came to that conclusion by reviewing current research, including a 2011 study that found the involvement of organized crime in Canada's marijuana market is minimal.
"A 2011 federal Department of Justice report studied a random sample of 500 marijuana production cases, drawn from Crown prosecutor case files and RCMP criminal history files over an 8-year period. Only 5% of the files yielded any indication that the offender was affiliated with organized crime or street gangs."
According to the CDPC, most illegal cultivators in Canada are small-scale growers who aren't primarily interested in profiteering. Instead, they generally grow cannabis for the sake of supplementing their income, controlling the quality of the marijuana they consume and, somewhat paradoxically, "avoiding the illegal market."
The CDPC also found that most growers want to be part of a legal framework. And the research group believes that seasoned growers and dispensary owners are important parts of their community who could provide the government with invaluable advice about marijuana.
"Cannabis producers, both small and large, are an important part of the economy and should be considered as valuable contributors to the policy process. These are, generally speaking, individuals who want to participate in a legal market premised upon thoughtfully constructed regulations. We recommend that the new regulations be informed by and incorporate this representative segment of the pre-existing market in order to benefit from their insights and experience."
But most importantly, the CDPC is calling on the government and media to tone down the rhetoric on the black market. "Erroneously painting current industry participants as organized criminals, with predatory actions and intentions, could lead to unfounded restrictions on participation in this emerging legal market," researchers wrote. You can read the full report here.
Banner Image: A new report from Canadian Drug Policy Coalition says Justin Trudeau may have exaggerated the involvement of organized crime in Canada's cannabis industry. (Art Babych / Shutterstock.com)