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As Canada’s Marijuana Black Market Persists, Are They Ready for Legal Cannabis?

MONTREAL — Black-market marijuana has been very good for Michael.

For 22 years, he has grown and sold the stuff in and around Montreal. An illegal activity punishable by up to life in prison, selling the pungent bounty that he cultivates in his basement has nonetheless given Michael the sheen of middle-class respectability (though he would not give me his real name for fear of legal repercussions).

Marijuana paid for the bungalow and a half-acre of land in a Montreal suburb. It paid for vacations, golf memberships and his Mercedes. In his bachelor years, it paid for his copious restaurant bills. Now it keeps his young children in hockey gear.

In the mid-1990s, a time of tight supply and higher stakes, he was selling a pound for $2,500 and grossing $395,000 a year. The price has nearly halved since then, but Michael still lives very comfortably. A bar manager by trade and for appearances, the 47-year-old said that 90 percent of his income is derived from selling marijuana.

The Canadian government is expected to legalize recreational marijuana by July 2018, in large part to put an end to the extensive and enduring black market for the drug on which people like Michael have thrived. Canadian businesses are anticipating a windfall. A 2016 Deloitte report estimated the legal Canadian marijuana market will be worth $18 billion annually. [Read more at The New York Times]

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