Paul Walters in Lifestyle, Communications and journalism, Travel Spreading the word in SE Asia • Brand Ambassador Be BEE Apr 11, 2021 · 3 min read · 1.4K

High Times In Sunny Vancouver.


In this picturesque, multicultural port city, a mere three - hour drive from Seattle, cannabis seems to have embedded itself into the population’s psyche as both a recreational drug as well as a state of mind. 

High Times In Sunny Vancouver.

Talking to a few young professionals, they seem to have no problem in having a ‘toke’ before work, spending days whizzing down the nearby ski slopes stoned or sitting around chatting about the merits of “BC Bud” as if discussing fine wine.

When Canada legalized marijuana in 2018, one of the central government’s aims was to shut down the thousands of illegal dispensaries and black market growers dotted around the country. However, converting an illegal industry into a regulated one, estimated at 5.3 billion Canadian dollars, has proved to be a little daunting.




Illegal marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver outnumber the government-approved legal dispensaries, and there are more of them than there are Starbucks outlets! One of the most popular ‘illegal’ stores is Weeds, Glass & Gifts. It’s a relaxed space (surprise, surprise) reminiscent of a favourite coffee shop, only here, jovial “budtenders” offer all manner of edibles or smokables to a steady stream of customers.


The Canadian government faces an uphill battle in stamping out these illegal retailers. For one, it seems that there are too many black market shops for the government to keep track of and, when one is closed down, another pops up on the same street. As someone put it to me, “ Asking the government to manage a thriving cannabis industry is like asking a farm labourer to build a rocket ship.”



In the lead up to full legalization, the newly created industry created a “green rush”, and the production and distribution, managed by government and licenced growers, went into overdrive. Stock prices soared, millions of dollars were staked, which doubled and tripled in an atmosphere reminiscent of the 90’s dotcom boom or the Yukon gold rush. This time around, though, the gold was green, but within a year, poor planning and execution meant that, all too soon, things started to fall apart.

The main problem was access to the product. Too few retail shops could open as the bureaucratic red tape meant that granting licences and conducting background checks took months. 


A significant dose of disappointment has replaced the early euphoria in the cannabis stock market. All cannabis stocks have tanked, with an average 50% wipe-out in value in the last year. Major players such as Aurora Cannabis took the biggest hit, with its shares falling from US$12.83 in March 2019 to US$2 today. Another bud behemoth, Tilray, has also had its share price slashed by 80%, from over US$81 to US$16 within a year.

Meanwhile, though, a thriving new market was waiting.



When the legal product was available, consumers discovered that the price was almost double that of the illegal market. Licenced dealers now had to deal with new overheads such as sky-high rents for retail space on the high streets. Also, new players struggled with tax compliance coupled with complex government regulations regarding fungicide and pesticide residue levels, as well as draconian security requirements for the vast grow sites. 

As the sluggish provincial bureaucracies grappled to come to grips with managing a new regulatory system, it seems the wheels fell off. 



A license to operate legally is almost impossible to obtain and, when they are, they start from a staggering $30,000. This hiatus is a boon for illegal sellers, and consequently, they continue to defy the law knowing full well that police and the public has little appetite for a national crackdown.

Given that just 29% of cannabis users buy their product from a legal source while four in 10 still purchase their cannabis from their regular dealer, this sector of the market will be around for some time to come. 


It’s obvious, really; why would anyone drive a few miles up the road to score bad weed from a government shop when your black-market dealer, who lives virtually next door, has a better product and, what’s more, will deliver it to your door for half the price?

Vancouver’s medical patients – the very people whose decades-long activism had finally triumphed, now face cannabis shortages and massive price increases. Suppliers began diverting their medical supplies to the new recreational market, leaving hundreds of smaller dealers of medical marijuana in the lurch.

So, with just a handful of shops and customers clinging to their traditional dealers, the new cannabis corporations have found themselves holding a glut of product. According to official government inventory figures, there is a stockpile of grass weighing in at 900 tonnes at last count.



The rollout of retail shops was left, in many cases, to inexperienced officials in provincial government departments, who didn’t trust private organizations to run the cannabis rollout. “We will manage it”, said the government. But, after squandering $80 million trying to figure out how to do it, they got nowhere, building extensive, shiny facilities that cost on average C$30m each. Suddenly, they had loads of cannabis and nowhere to sell it because there weren’t any stores. Eventually, they had to invite private tenders to do the job correctly.

By 2019, more than 5.1 million people nationally, or 16.8% of Canadians aged 15 or older, reported using cannabis. This was higher than the 14.9% (4.5 million) reporting use before legalization.


And so, two years on from legalization, cannabis has become part of the retail and social landscape; and the city has not crumbled into dust and law and order have not been challenged, and Vancouverites seemingly go about their daily lives as they did before. 

For decades cannabis has been the mark of the rebel, the outsider, the outlaw and now, with legalization, parts of their countercultural identity have been altered forever. Canada it seems has made cannabis boring – and that was kind of the point.

Vancouver, Canada, April 2021

Paul v Walters is the best-selling author of several novels and short stories. When he is not cocooned in sloth and procrastination in his house in Bali he scribbles for several international and vox pop journals around the globe.



Fay Vietmeier Apr 26, 2021 · #11

#11 @Harvey Lloyd

I find there is much double-mindedness about this subject:
.. in the USA especially

I agree Harvey
Most early adopting states of legalization are finding the same thing concerning alcohol, drugs and other mentally altering chemicals of high need for rehabilitation.

I do agree with your thinking: - what you say:
.. "alcohol and Pot can be used responsibly, but that doesn't mean that its good for the state or country"
.. "Most early adopting states of legalization are finding the same thing concerning alcohol, drugs and other mentally altering chemicals of high need for rehabilitation"

As I shared with Paul ..
The Puritans have this saying:
"Our affections bribe our discernment"

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Fay Vietmeier Apr 25, 2021 · #10

@Paul Walters

First congratulations on becoming a grandfather '~)
Wonderful to hear "smooth sailing" ..
A boy or girl .. if you don't mind me asking?

Interesting post.
What you say here .. drives home the lack of vision or strategic planning for such an important decision.

"It’s obvious, really; why would anyone drive a few miles up the road to score bad weed from a government shop when your black-market dealer, who lives virtually next door, has a better product and, what’s more, will deliver it to your door for half the price?"

Big factor:
"Better product - half the price" Dahhh
Prohibition - deters but never really works
But Big Ag & Big Pharma - will have their way .. you can see the partnerships - acquisitions laying the groundwork

There is fascinating research being done by many companies globally
Cannabis Genomics & Sequencing
https://www.medicinalgenomics.com/cannabis-genome/

I started following this company several years ago .. interesting development inn2019 with Big Ag - seems a turn of purpose
https://mjbizdaily.com/phylos-bioscience-causes-cannabis-industry-disturbance-in-big-ag-video/

My Dr. told me that the perception is cannabis cures everything - in the future no need for Doctors ;~)
(kidding of course)

The Puritans have this saying:
"Our affections bribe our discernment"

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Sidney Mason Apr 17, 2021 · #9

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+1 +1
Harvey Lloyd Apr 15, 2021 · #8

https://youtu.be/zhQlcMHhF3w If time permits "Reefer Madness" was a movie slash public service presentations of the 30's

We have been spending trillions on "drug enforcement" for decades. I find it interesting that addiction to OXY is a health crisis while Marijuana is being legalised. That is not an addiction comparison but the fact that folks take a trip and never leave the farm as the comparison.

Most early adopting states of legalization are finding the same thing concerning alcohol, drugs and other mentally altering chemicals of high need for rehabilitation.

I do believe that alcohol and Pot can be used responsibly, but that doesn't mean that its good for the state or country.

Good piece though. Mixed emotions on the topic.

+1 +1
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-1 -1
Robert Cormack Apr 15, 2021 · #6

No it doesn't, Paul. Good luck.#3

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Pascal Derrien Apr 12, 2021 · #5

Thats a really good and insightful article I had not realized the had been a legalization process in place in Canada :-)

+2 +2
Ken Boddie Apr 12, 2021 · #4

Hmmh! Not sure if I should ask, “Hi, how are you?” or “How high are you?”
Whatever you do, don’t try any of those cannabis chocolate chip cookies. They’ll give you a pot belly. 🪴

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