What do we know about the feds’ plan to bust up the online cannabis black market?

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It could be shaping up to be a bad year for the black market.

A briefing book prepared for Bill Blair, the federal public safety minister, shows that Ottawa is very much pursuing its options when it comes to the illicit market, according to Marijuana Business Daily.

A redacted version of the book, dated last November, was posted to the internet last week and details some of the ministry’s priorities.

“Just as the legal supply of recreational cannabis is becoming more firmly established, the internet has evolved into a distribution channel for the illicit sale of drugs,” the briefing reads. “(Public Safety Canada) is working with federal, provincial and territorial partners to develop an action plan to disrupt online illicit cannabis sales.”

The redacted version of the report does not shed light on the plan itself, but recognizes that making a dent in the illicit market “will take time to achieve.”

Still, cannabis consultant Jamie Shaw said she was skeptical about the government’s unknown plan and was puzzled it seems to think online illicit sales are a new problem.

“They’ve been told about online dispensaries,” Shaw told Marijuana Business Daily. “When we were still trying to get legalization, and recreational stores licensed, we told them that this was a big part of the industry and that if they didn’t allow existing stores to get licensed, then there would just be a lot more of it,” she said.

FILE: Edmonton police are cracking down on illegal cannabis sales by seizing domains. 

Shaw noted the heavy-handed approach that police often take toward drugs won’t be effective here. “We’re talking about using enforcement, again, as the hammer that has never worked on this nail,” she said.

“The smart thing to have done would have been to license brick-and-mortar stores, existing brick-and-mortar stores, license existing growers, and get them moving through the regulated system,” she suggested.

“By not doing that, you’re trying to close your hand around water — you’re not ever going to actually get a handle on it.”

Edmonton police stepped up their own enforcement efforts recently by taking down hundreds of websites that sell illicit cannabis, such as Boutique Cannabis and  MJNExpress, according to Medical Marijuana Program Connection. Many of the websites resurfaced hours or days later under new addresses.

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