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Marijuana business thriving in St. John’s ahead of legalization

On Instagram, user Rosin709 posts pictures of his high-potency marijuana extracts, which he sells. Ahead of marijuana legalization, there are already several boutique businesses in town trying to get a piece of the action.
On Instagram, user Rosin709 posts pictures of his high-potency marijuana extracts, which he sells. Ahead of marijuana legalization, there are already several boutique businesses in town trying to get a piece of the action.

In a cluttered workspace in an undisclosed location in St. John’s, Rosin709 operates a strange, makeshift device.

He wraps about a gram of marijuana in parchment paper, and then sticks it between two metal pucks with wires coming out of them. The whole contraption sits inside a vice-grip on a worktable.

Using temperature controls, Rosin709 heats the metal pucks to about 80 degrees before cranking the vice-grip to squeeze the metal pucks together.

Moments later, he pulls the parchment paper apart to reveal an oily substance melted and squished out of the marijuana — about 75 per cent pure THC.

Smear a bit of it in an e-cigarette and you can vapourize your high in a tidy little package.

“Rosin709” is his Instagram username; The Telegram agreed not to use his real name because what he is doing is still illegal — at least until next year when the federal government legalizes cannabis.

“I recognize that this is kind of walking past the line of legality, but, I mean, I don’t f---ing care. We should all grow up and get over it,” Rosin709 says.

“I’m hoping that by the time it’s legal, this will all be set up and running, and I’ll have a customer base and a year’s worth of cool Instagram posts.”

He’s not alone.

On Facebook, there are at least two different St. John’s businesses selling a wide variety of marijuana-infused edible treats — one of the groups has more than 1,200 members.

Last fall, there was a dispensary called CannaLeaf on Water Street that would sell marijuana over the counter to anybody over the age of 18, without requiring a prescription. CannaLeaf was raided and shut down by the police, but there’s now another dispensary quietly operating in the city, also selling to anybody, not just to medical users.

There are also several websites that process payments by interac e-transfer, and then send marijuana and edibles through the mail.

“I haven’t gone to a street dealer in months,” said one satisfied customer, speaking to The Telegram on the condition of anonymity.

He said he’s bought from one of the local bakeries, as well as bought marijuana from the mail-order outfits.

“They’re certainly getting a head-start on everything. It seems like there’s an added level of professionalism,” he said. “Like, they have menus, and they’re pretty on the ball in terms of getting back to you, and stuff like that. Like, even in terms of grammar, there’s noticeable differences.”

As a customer buying edibles from time to time — as a “treat” — he said the professionals get the THC dosage much more consistent than the baked goods he and his friends used to make, meaning a much more reliable high without the possibility of ingesting too much.

Justice Minister Andrew Parsons was careful to say the law, as it stands, still very much makes all of this illegal.

“That being said, it’s a well-known tenet all across the country that police have discretion,” Parsons said.

“I am hearing anecdotally, we’ll say, that the police may be aware, but the police have discretion. That’s not a discussion I’ve had with our police forces. This is not a direction that I’ve provided to them.”

The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, which is responsible for drug enforcement in the province, exercised its discretion by not responding to multiple requests for comment from The Telegram for this story.

Parsons said the government is marching toward full legalization of cannabis next year.

The government recently did a big consultation process on how legalized marijuana should look in the province, and Parsons said there was broad consensus that where you can smoke should be regulated similar to tobacco, and there should be penalties for driving while impaired.

But Parsons said there’s no consensus when it comes to distribution.

If the government decides not to licence independent distributors — say, if it decides to sell marijuana through the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp. — that will leave Rosin709, the bakeries and the dispensaries still on the wrong side of the law.

But Parsons said one of the big aims is to keep profits out of the hands of organized crime.

“Look, I don’t endorse, obviously, people proceeding outside the law.”

The elephant in the room, though, Rosin709 said, is that a huge portion of the population is already ignoring Parsons’ advice.

“Nobody f---ing cares. Everybody smokes weed in this province,” Rosin709 said. “Everybody smokes weed, man — doctors, lawyers, pharmacists.”

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