Where Do Dispensaries Get Their Weed From?

Gangs still profit from storefront sales

The recent proliferation of marijuana dispensaries has created an avenue for people who are interested in smoking the drug, but don’t want to directly fund organised crime.

“I feel like going into a dispensary diminishes the sketchiness of buying weed. It’s not like you’re buying drugs; it’s like you’re buying groceries. They don’t get it from drug dealers, I don’t know where they get it from, but I’m pretty sure it’s not from drug dealers,” said Bart*, a student who regularly purchases marijuana from dispensaries.

(He isn’t alone in his preference; 16.2 per cent of undergrad students surveyed recently at Ryerson University say they exclusively purchase marijuana at dispensaries.)

They do get it from drug dealers though, Bart.

Jiaotusanku, Chinese for crafty rabbit, an idiom that means “a sly individual that has more than one plan to fall back on,” is a Toronto-based polydrug and marijuana supplier with ties to the Triads. He said this of dispensaries:

“Dispensaries are just dealers with a storefront. They’re the new hustlers in town and they’ve bettered my business. I work with [dealers and dispensaries]. I am well connected and I set up deals where my personal interest is at best, functional upon dispensaries picking up off the cartel.”

He implies that the rise of dispensaries and their enormous demand for product has made his work much less risky, and set him up with a cushy middleman gig.  

“I just collect free money. The only risk that I have is predicated upon setting up the transaction to mutually benefit both parties. As long as I ensure the deal is set up, there is no risk for me. I’m not even a drug dealer anymore, just the person who knows people. Cops have encountered me seven times this month, at all three places that I live at. Zero arrests.”

The situation of dispensaries next to restaurants and clothing stores across the country has given them an air of professionalism, and hoodwinked people like Bart. It’s easy to forget that they still operate outside the law, and, unsurprisingly, never disclose where their product comes from.

“No store will tell its clients exactly where they get it from,” said James Whitehead, owner of medical marijuana dispensaries in B.C., in an interview.

“It’s not like a vineyard where they say: ‘Here it is on the vineyard map. Go drive by and have a look.’ There are no tours of the grow facilities. They are clandestine operations.”

The survey that included the marijuana purchasing preference question was conducted at Ryerson University. It was contributed to by 897 undergraduate students and was a randomised poll, conducted person-to-person on March 3-7, 2017. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Names have been changed.