About the Industry

White, Grey and Black Markets

White Grey and Black Markets

Buying weed in Canada

It’s complicated because there are so many different ways to do it. We have received so many questions that we decided to write an article to better help our clients understand the current cannabis landscape of the white, grey and black markets. Here are some of the questions we’ve been consistently getting:

I’m new to buying weed. It’s legal now, right? I’ve heard the term “grey area”. What is that, and do I need to be concerned? I heard that some of the websites are still illegal. How do you tell the difference? Is it ok to buy from them? I’ve heard they are better, is that true?

Ok hold up, let’s slow down for a minute. Let’s answer all the questions one by one.

White Grey and Black Markets

It’s legal now, right?


Yes. Weed is legal. Canada became the second country after Uruguay to federally legalize cannabis. It officially happened on October 17th, 2018. Rejoice!

The thing is, cannabis in Canada has a long history of social acceptance since before it was federally legalized. As a result, the retail situation has become quite complicated. Now, we have white, grey and black markets.

White Grey and Black Markets

Grey area? Black market? White market? LP’s?

There are 3 ‘markets’ in Canada. First, there is the black market. This was the old way to buy weed. This connection to buying weed you probably called / call your “dealer”. The black market basically describes street dealers. These individuals or businesses often sell other illicit, recreational drugs like MDMA, cocaine and the like.

White Grey and Black Markets

Next is the grey market. This describes online mail order dispensaries, physical location dispensaries, and delivery services that are not sanctioned by the government.

These organizations (for the most part) only sell cannabis and do not deal other illicit drugs. They take a open retail approach, trying to provide the most ethical and best quality cannabis to Canadian consumers. This industry has been thriving for over a decade and offers high quality cannabis products to an enormous, loyal customer base.

White Grey and Black Markets

Last of all is the white market, which is the legal retail space. This system is provincially regulated under the Cannabis Act. Provincially approved cannabis stores are able to buy product only from licensed producers that follow Health Canada, provincial, and federal regulations.

The processes for how marijuana is sold is a little different province by province. That is because the federal government legalized cannabis, but then left it up the each province to regulate it the way they see fit.

Does that mean grey market websites are illegal?

Technically, yes. But it’s more complicated than that. Many of these websites used to physical stores but had to move online when the government started opening their own shops and threatened millions of dollars of fines.

The provincial and federal governments made it very difficult for grey market illegal dispensaries to move into the legal space. As a result they moved to the internet to still be able to provide their clients with top quality cannabis products.

White Grey and Black Markets

Why would I buy from an illegal website over a legal one?

First of all, remember that as the consumer, you are not a target. Any legal action taken on the grey market is aimed at the seller, not the buyer. The biggest problem in Canadian cannabis right now is that the legal market is decades behind the illegal market in terms of product quality.

For the advanced and informed cannabis user, it’s widely accepted that most cannabis produced by licensed producers in sub-par. Some of it is getting better, and it will all get better eventually. But the problem remains that right now, most of it sucks. It is also much more expensive than grey and black market cannabis.

grey vs white market

In summary, many grey market mail orders and delivery services have superior quality product at better prices than the legal cannabis stores. If you as the purchaser are not at legal risk, then it seems obvious to at least consider the higher quality, better value cannabis products as a buying option.

Grey market weed

How do you tell the difference between a legal and illegal online dispensary?

There are many ways to tell the difference, although at first glance illegal mail order marijuana sites may seem totally legal. You’re asked to confirm you’re of legal age, upload identification to make sure, and sometimes even pay provincial and federal tax on cannabis sales. So how do you tell the difference?

The first thing is look at where they ship to. All legal cannabis stores only sell and ship to citizens within that province. This is a result of the system being provincially regulated.

Second, check if their products have an excise tax stamp. All legal products are required to have this.

White Grey and Black Markets

Third, check the packaging. If the packaging of the products looks very minimalist, you’re probably on a legal site. Illegal sites have no regulations on packaging, which results in full colour and various full label designs.

Last of all, you can go onto provincial websites to determine if the seller is legal.

Do your own research

If you want to buy from an illegal website because of their superior product, that’s a totally viable option. Just make sure you do some research first. Put the name of the site in a google search with “reviews” after to see what other people have to say about the website. If it’s not a legitimate one, or a scam, you’ll definitely find complaints online.

Conversely, if it’s an awesome and dependable operation, you’ll probably find excellent reviews! Or perhaps they are new, or re-branded, but still awesome, like us 🙂

We hope you enjoyed this blog post on the white, grey and black markets of the cannabis industry of Canada.

Let us know if you have any questions! We’ll meet you at the end of the rainbow.

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