Cannabis can only be sold under certain conditions. Not just anyone can buy or sell cannabis, and there are very good reasons for this.

Legal cannabis products undergo strict and rigorous testing for harmful substances by federally licensed third-party laboratories to guard the integrity of the products and ensure maximum safety for the public. Legal cannabis is tested for:

• 96 unapproved pesticides by Health Canada

• Heavy metals (i.e. mercury and lead)

• Foreign matter (i.e. pests)

• Microbiology (i.e. E. coli, Salmonella)

Less reputable dispensaries have tried to circumnavigate these procedures by operating without the proper licenses and paperwork, so there is no guarantee that illicit cannabis will not contain these harmful substances.

Actually, besides just the health and safety benefits, there are plenty of reasons to buy from a licensed store! Legal retail cannabis products clearly display the potency, strain, net weight, and expiration date on the label, as well as indicating the THC and CBD levels. Yet, despite the efforts to provide safe access to cannabis and overcome the stigma of cannabis use, the prevalence of the illegal market indicates a general lack of information and awareness surrounding Canada’s cannabis laws.

Illegally purchased cannabis isn’t just a risk in terms of health complications; it’s also a risk in terms of legal consequences. If a person is caught purchasing – or in possession of – illicit cannabis, they may be fined. And to make matters worse, gray-market companies often operate in plain sight, and it’s not necessarily clear to customers whether a store is legal or not!

Weedmaps (a popular online dispensary locator) doesn’t distinguish between licensed and unlicensed shops; nor do mainstream sites like Google and Yelp. However, the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) provides an easily recognizable window decal to all non-medical cannabis retail store licensees (Refer above).

So choose an honest business! Businesses where your health and safety matter. Businesses that follow the rules and support your community/province/country by paying the taxes they owe.