In an inevitable offshoot of medical marijuana legalization, growers in B.C. are now supplying marijuana not only to the city’s population of legal patients, but to illicit street buyers as well. One particular grower – who will only be identified as “Jack” – earns thousands of dollars providing medical marijuana to the black market, on top of the money that he makes from his roster of legal patients. He currently estimates his bi-monthly earnings from street selling at about $20,000, which adds up to $120,000 every year. Remarkably, there seems to be little that local law enforcement authorities can do about the illegal trade.

growing marijuana plantsLike many “government-approved” medical marijuana providers, Jack started out exclusively in in the illegal marijuana business. But the constant risk of arrest convinced him to apply for a personal use production license from Health Canada. After filling out the necessary forms – a process that took all of 30 minutes – Jack was legally allowed to grow marijuana for his own use. The process was so easy that Jack even got a second medical marijuana license.

The legal gray area in which medical marijuana patients thrive in B.C. has given law enforcement authorities considerable cause for concern. Among them is Const. Bill Long, who regularly encounters marijuana offenders in Nelson. A district especially known for its illegal marijuana trade, Nelson is only one of the day-to-day challenges that law officials such as Long have had to deal with in the wake of marijuana legalization.

One particular area of concern is the number of previously illegal growers that are now packing fully legitimate licenses. Of the more than 20,000 medical marijuana licenses granted all over Canada, it is significant that half of these comprise medical marijuana providers in B.C. For Long and other law enforcement officers, the high number of growers only serves to make their jobs more difficult.

As part of the terms of the license, legal grow-ops are subject to regular inspections by representatives of Health Canada. However, Long hasn’t actually witnessed any of those inspections and he lamented the lack of police authority to perform those checks themselves. Long also noticed the absence of follow-up procedures such as door knocks and checks.

As for the very people that Long hopes to prevent, most of them – Jack being one of them – are free to grow marijuana without fear of legal repercussions. Growers also routinely pool their licenses and raise hundreds of plants every batch.Canada marijuana flag

Although it would seem that growers would appreciate the opportunities provided by medical marijuana legalization, people like Jack sometimes wonder if things weren’t better when marijuana was illegal. Back then, street dealers could earn as much as $3,000 per pound of bud. With medical marijuana licenses so easy to obtain nowadays, the price is closer to $1,700. For growers such as Jack, the benefits of legalization come with a hefty pay cut that will likely be the norm as legal medical weed takes over.

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About the Author: Brian Ellis

With 6 years' experience in business journalism, Brian is the person we turn to for anything related to the business of cannabis. His news coverage spans topics including marijuana business and finance. Brian's work features on,, , and

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