WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: DUSTIN KAGAN-FLEMING

“I’m probably just gonna stay with my guy.”

Louis is a Concordia student. He’s also an avid weed smoker. He has a dealer he likes and weed that’s doing the job for him right now. Why change  that? Louis is like many smokers who, despite the emergence of the legal cannabis market, are choosing to continue to buy their weed from the illegal dealers they’re used to. While plenty of people are checking out the legal products sold at the Société québécoise du cannabis, many are either supplementing those with the weed they’re used to, or avoiding the legal branch for a variety of reasons. For Louis, one of those reasons is simply that he hasn’t enjoyed his brief experience with legal weed as much as he has with that of his dealer. Opinions from those sticking with black-market weed seem to range from preference  like Louis’, to not seeing enough of a difference in quality.

Despite Quebec’s being the cheapest legal weed in Canada, some young people are also finding convenience issues are pushing them away from going the legal route to getting high.“When I heard it was being legalized, I thought it would be like alcohol, where there’s an SAQ everywhere you turn. Obviously, it’s not at that point yet,” said Owen, a student at John Abbott College who describes himself as a regular smoker. Owen lives in the West Island, so the lack of SQDCs there is a real obstacle for him. Rather than travelling out of his way every time he wants to get high, he’s stayed with the same dealer he had before legalization. Owen certainly hasn’t felt worried about any legal issues or getting caught with handling things this way. He says that the increasingly relaxed attitude around smoking marijuana publicly has helped that.

It’s the same feeling among dealers who aren’t noticing any decrease in their sales.“The same people come. People would think you’d have to be more careful but it’s not the case. I haven’t seen a difference,” said Eddie (not his real name), a dealer who says he believes people are happy to stick to what they know has made them happy in the past. Eddie’s tried the competition’s product before. He wasn’t a big fan of what the SQDC had to offer and didn’t see much of a point to buying there.

Luckily for him, most of his clients didn’t seem to either. “People were calling more,” said Eddie. “Maybe it was that there [were] advertisements for it, but people were calling more for a month after [legalization].”

In his experience, if you had a good dealer before legalization and didn’t have a reason to leave, most wouldn’t change over. But aside from that, both Eddie and Louis brought up concerns about how the SQDC has handled their distribution and where they get their product. There were clear problems from the start with the SQDC for many smokers like Louis. Because of an early boom in sales the day legalization came into effect, long wait times and lack of supply became an issue.

The lack of inventory led to stretches of time where no one could buy their legal weed. This has left some buyers wary of the government weed ever since. Along with supply worries, some don’t love where the supply is coming from. The SQDC is supplied by some larger marijuana companies, whereas dealers often get their supply from more local “little man” growers.

“I think they missed out on opening up a market to independent growers,” said Louis. He noted he would be much more likely to buy legal weed if he knew more local, independent growers were getting a shot, as opposed to a few large companies. While some people are definitely buying their weed legally now, plenty are taking all of these reasons into account and sticking with what they know and are comfortable with. Despite not buying from the legal market, they’re still enjoying some of the benefits that come with legalization.

“The major difference I’ve seen is that people are becoming okay with it,” said Eddie.

It’s become much more acceptable not only to smoke weed, but to talk about it in areas that were previously taboo. There’s a more open discussion now. There’s greater acceptance  of people wanting to have a smoke to enjoy themselves or simply light up to take the edge off, legally or otherwise.