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Local users say accessibility issues contributing to black market sales
A local business was awarded a license to open a cannabis retail outlet on the Burin Peninsula a little over a year ago, but many on the peninsula are still using illegal channels for access.
Oceanic Releaf currently holds the only retail license for the Burin Peninsula, and has approval to open three outlets at the former Island Escape location at 209-213 Unit #2 Ville Marie Drive in Marystown, 4-10 High Street in Port aux Basques and 12 West Link Road in Rocky Harbour.
CEO and founder Taylor Giovannini said the company has been in a position to open the retail locations since legalization came into effect.
"It’s been a challenging road to navigate but we’re almost there," she said. "We understand the frustrations of consumers not having access to safe and legal cannabis on the peninsula and that’s exactly why we are working so hard to change that."
Until those legal outlets are open, cannabis users will continue to buy their product illegally.
"I get it from a trusted friend,” explained a 27-year-old woman, who asked not to be named because of the stigma still attached cannabis use. “I don't go to anyone else."
The woman told The Southern Gazette in a conversation on social media, she has purchased cannabis through licensed providers but it's not easy and less than satisfactory.
"Honestly there are too many issues with it and barriers to get it," she said. "First of all, we don't have any access to it out here."
She also encountered supply and quality issues.
"You have to go to multiple stores just to get a few joints," she shared.
The woman still buys pre-rolled product occasionally, but prefers to use her trusted sources to buy cannabis in bud form.
She paid almost double the price at a legal outlet for the same amount of bud she would purchase from a dealer. The product was also under the specified weight, she claimed.
"When I gave it a chance it was pure trash," she said. "The quality wasn't there and it was so dry I didn't even need a grinder.”
She said until issues facing legalized cannabis in the province are addressed, many people will continue to buy illegally.
"Legalizing cannabis is supposed to eliminate the black market when done correctly," she said, "but the way this mess is set up ensures that the black market isn't going anywhere.
"I would love to operate within the law," she said, adding the government is making it difficult to do so.
"Not to mention people are still being jailed and fined for cannabis, it's not real legalization it's a corporate takeover."
She is not alone in her quest for better access to legal cannabis retailers.
Some choose to order from online retailers, like a 37-year-old woman from Grand Bank, who also requested anonymity.
"They have a better selection, availability, cost, quality and quantity," she said.
She once legally purchased 3.5 grams for $42 but said the product actually weighed in at a half-gram less.
“Online illegally you can get 29 grams for $160," the woman said.
The online stores will also offer incentives to shoppers such as free product with their purchase.
If there was a licensed retail outlet on the Burin Peninsula, the woman said she would shop there.
"Shopping and supporting local is important on my list."
The Oceanic Releaf CEO did not identify what challenges have stalled the retail outlets from opening.
Giovannini said the stores will be open as soon as the company is able to do so.
"We are excited and proud to serve the Burin Peninsula," she said. "Good things are coming, employment, education and safe cannabis."