Pubdate: Thu, 21 Jun 2018
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2018 The New York Times Company
Author: Dan Bilefsky and Catherine Porter


MONTREAL - For one of Canada's largest legal cannabis companies, the
vote in Parliament this week to legalize recreational marijuana use
represents a broad opportunity to develop new products, including
marijuana infused drinks.

The hope, said Adam Greenblatt, a manager with the company, Canopy
Growth, "is that in five years time people will be drinking cannabis
drinks at a cocktail party as if drinking a good wine."

Matteo Rossant, 21, a business graduate at Concordia University in
Montreal, also envisions an expansive future, one in which he sells
maple syrup, lollipops and jelly treats made with cannabis.

But Remi Letendre, 81, a retired Quebec radio host, worries that legal
marijuana sales and consumption will leave cities like Toronto and
Montreal overrun by stoned adolescents and marijuana tourists from the
United States stumbling around the sidewalks.

People across Canada were grappling on Wednesday with the legalization
of recreational marijuana, which represents one of the most sweeping
changes in Canadian culture in decades.

Many questions remain, including whether law enforcement will be able
to tame a vibrant black market for cannabis that has been thriving in
the shadows and whether consumers will reject smoking
government-approved joints.

The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had argued
that legalization was necessary to eliminate an illegal cannabis
industry estimated to be worth as much as $7 billion a year and to
protect young people from the risks of illegal drugs. The law will go
into effect on Oct. 17, Mr. Trudeau said Wednesday, to give provinces
time to get their retail systems running.

But proponents of marijuana legalization may face an unlikely
challenge: customers who worry that government-approved products will
take some of the thrill out of pot smoking.

Tristan Peloquin, a Montreal-based author of a soon-to-be-published 
book, "The Little Green Book of Cannabis: A Survival Guide," predicted 
that veteran consumers would come around.

"Smoking pot has long been a rebellious anti-government activity,'' he
said, "but some of the illegal stuff has pesticides and pot smokers
will ultimately want better quality pot."

The Quebec Cannabis Company, the new provincial marijuana monopoly,
has been examining how to sell cannabis, given restrictions that, for
example, forbid glamorizing it in marketing or selling it in glass
display cases behind a counter.

Mathieu Gaudreault, a spokesman for the company, said customers might
be able to at least smell the marijuana, which will be sold in sealed
sachets, "as if they were smelling perfume." Customers will be asked
for identification at the entrance to retail stores to prove that they
are at least 18 years old, the legal age for buying alcohol and
cannabis in Quebec.

At the official stores, one gram will cost about $6; other products
will be offered, both at stores and online, with different degrees of

While Canadians will soon be allowed to smoke and sell marijuana with
impunity for the first time in 95 years, hundreds of illegal
dispensaries have already popped up across the country, underlining
the challenges the government and law enforcement will face.

Trees Station, one of many illegal pot dispensaries in Toronto's
bohemian Kensington Market, has been open for two years, selling more
than 30 different kinds of marijuana, with names like Pink Cinderella
and Organic Charlotte's Web.

The drug is offered in capsules and extract form, too. Customers can
buy THC lip balm and a canine calming cannabis powder called Calm and
Quiet. Business is so good, the owners have no intention of shutting
down when the new law goes into effect in October. Instead, they have
plans to open two new sites.

"We're going to keep on doing what we're doing," said Nathan Murdock,
the store manager.

The store presents itself as if it were a medical dispensary. There is
a green cross on a signboard on the street outside and a note on the
door that warns buyers that they need to show an ID, as they would at
an authorized dispensary.

But it is just a pretense. Inside, the staff serves a continual line
of shoppers from behind a glass counter, sorting through their orders
wearing latex gloves.

Although Canada legalized medical marijuana in 2001, and today
patients must order marijuana by mail from producers licensed by the
government, hundreds of black market dispensaries have

On Wednesday afternoon, Eartha Masek-Kelly, a 21-year-old musician,
bought a quarter of an ounce of Green House Ocean Grown Kush from the
counter as she had done every other day for the past year to calm her
anxiety and depression.

"Why put resources into shutting down independent retailers that are
just helping people?" she asked.

In effort to rein in illegal dispensaries, Ontario has passed tough
laws allowing the police to shut them down. But as quickly as some
illegal stores have been shut down, others have opened up.

Staff Sgt. Lesley Hildred of the Toronto Police said officers took the
door off one of the closed dispensaries to ensure that it could not
reopen quickly. "It takes a lot of police hours," the sergeant said.
"We can't be there enforcing the law all the time. I have other things
to do."

Mr. Peloquin said that some legal medical marijuana growers had been
selling their surplus crop to illegal sites that peddle marijuana online.

"There is a massive gray market already and the police know it
exists,'' he said. "But if they arrest someone and a person shows they
are a designated producer, it is hard to prove criminal intent. So it
is very hard to clamp down on this."

Gerard Deltell, an opposition Conservative member of the federal
Parliament from Quebec City, argued that the government had rushed to
legalize marijuana before law enforcement in some provinces were
ready. He predicted that organized crime would continue to hold sway.

"It is shocking that the Canadian government wants to become the pot
dealer for the nation," he said.

Mr. Letendre, the retired radio host, offered perhaps the most dire
vision of what legalization might produce. "Young people from all over
the world will come to smoke weed in Montreal, and we will soon become
a country of potheads," he said as he rode his electric scooter
through downtown Montreal.

But other people, especially young ones, view legalization as an
enormous business prospect.

Mr. Rossant, 21, the recent university graduate, is starting a
marijuana lifestyle magazine called Maples. He also wants to produce a
variety of maple-derived, marijuana-infused products, and he is hoping
that the law will be liberalized as demand grows.

"For a young entrepreneur like me, the pot industry feels easier to
get into than the tech sector," he said. "Besides, we millennials have
the know-how when it comes to the pot-market - we have all smoked pot."