Despite efforts from Health Canada and law enforcement, illegal dispensaries continue to operate in plain sight, often with the knowledge of law enforcement.
One such example is the Pikwakanagan First Nations’ reserve in Golden Lake. Located about 150 kilometres from Ottawa, this reserve is home to several illegal marijuana retailers.
As reports of vaping-related illnesses in the U.S. rise to over 800, the Centers for Disease Control believes these are most likely due to illegal cannabis vapes. The Ottawa Citizen decided to see if these products were available in the reserve.
Their results were mixed and often blocked by resistance from store owners who, understandably, would prefer to avoid having their illegal businesses put in the spotlight.
Majority of Dispensaries Still Selling Vapes
Despite warnings by health officials and evidence mounting against cannabis e-cigarette products, these items were still available in four of the six dispensaries the Ottawa Citizen visited. The reserve is home to a total of eight illegal stores.
But the stores selling these devices say that they have not noticed any problems so far. Staff at the Mashkiki Medicinals said:
“We haven’t had any issues or problems with the products we sell. Obviously if it’s going to be an issue we definitely wouldn’t sell (vape pens and cartridges).”
Grass Roots Healing sold cannabis vape pens for $50 each, which, according to its staff, is a good price.
They also have a “JUUL” branded marijuana cartridge – although these are in no way directly endorsed by or affiliated with the now infamous JUUL vape device. However, these cartridges are specifically designed to fit the JUUL vape, giving users the ability to seamlessly switch between cannabis and nicotine cartridges, if they so decide.
Those familiar with the device know that JUUL cartridges can only carry 0.7ml of liquid – enough for about 200 puffs. Despite their tiny volume, each of these “JUUL” branded THC products contains 700mg of THC – enough to seriously sicken a child or adult.
Not all of the dispensaries in question want to keep carrying cannabis vapes. According to the Ottawa Citizen:
“At The Healing Cabin, the proprietor said she had considered carrying vape pens, but decided against it after hearing about the lung illnesses. She couldn’t live with herself if one of her customers became ill, said the woman, who declined to give her full name. ‘We’re not supposed to be making people sick. We are supposed to be helping people.’”
But this self-policing is the closest thing they have to legal or health enforcement. In fact, Ontario Provincial Police know of these dispensaries, but are yet to do anything about it.
They said in a statement:
“The OPP will investigate illicit cannabis products including vape pen cannabis juice, but in terms of any enforcement on the Pikwakanagan First Nation, I would have to refer you to the Band Council or the (Cannabis) Business Alliance.”
Although we have been critical of government and law enforcement’s apparent inaction against the grey market, this situation is not entirely the police’s fault.
Because this takes place in First Nations territory, the OPP has to co-ordinate with several other groups.
Avoid Illegal Vape Products
Marijuana vape devices are still on track to be sold in Canada by December. Health officials in the U.S. encourage their citizens to only purchase legal products – advice that Canadians should also consider.
Unregulated illegal vape liquids could contain literally anything. Purchasing them not only puts the user at risk, but also keeps these unscrupulous manufacturers in business.
WeedAdvisor’s Role in Education
While we heavily specialize in providing business solutions for retailers, producers and government, WeedAdvisor also took on the task of informing the public about potential dangers with the industry we support.
The vape device situation we see now is arguably the worst crisis WeedAdvisor covered. But if there is a silver lining to this, it is that the public is a bit warier of the grey market as a whole.
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