For years now the term “grey market” has been used by legalization advocates and the media to describe a liminal legal space theoretically occupied by certain players in the cannabis economy. The term is usually applied to businesses like dispensaries and the growers who supply them.
But what does the term “grey market” really mean? The answer is not as simple as you might think, and professional opinions are divided on the matter.
“Grey market basically means anything that is illegal in the eyes of the government, but is de facto legal due to overwhelming public support” says Gladys Bergman, who heads up the University of Northeastern Alberta’s department of radical semiontology.
“The effect of this is that it’s legal because people believe it’s legal, not because it’s actually legal. But that makes it legal. You also see this with other drugs such as mushrooms, MDMA, and ketamine—because they all have strong therapeutic effects and get positive coverage on Vice, they’re in the ‘grey market’ category, where bad drugs such as cocaine, crystal meth, and fentanyl fall into the ‘black market’ category.”
While Dr. Bergman’s definition falls in line with what we see represented in the general media landscape, professor Clarence Green of John A. MacDonald University’s Institute for Racial Understanding sees it differently.
“It’s really quite simple,” he says. “The creation and utilization of the words ‘grey market’ has been and continues to be undeniably racist. You might think I’m exaggerating here but just look at the facts. Who uses this terminology? Rich white people do. What does it imply? That they’re not getting arrested, or at least not convicted, which is true except in the case of the Emerys—who, let’s face it, were asking for it.
“But do you know who does get arrested for and convicted of selling cannabis and other drugs? Black and indigenous people, that’s who. So now that there’s a ‘grey’ market for white people, that leaves the black market to the rest of us who take the full force of the law on themselves while rich white people flaunt their privilege and brag on Instagram about how excited they are for their next court date.”
Perhaps there is some common truth between these two views, somewhere in between Dr. Bergman’s semio-linguistic hocus pocus and the hard truth, as Dr. Green points out, that there is systemic racism at play when we’re talking about who is likely to be arrested or convicted in Canada, or likewise, who can afford proper legal counsel.
“The grey market isn’t an idea, or a group of people—it’s a place” says Jackson Jackson Jr. of the Bay Street law firm Jackson, Jackson, Irving and Jackson, which specializes in the cannabis space. “It’s a beautiful place, and I can take you there. But like any beautiful place, it’s expensive to get to. You need a float plane. That’s where my partners and I come in. With over 40 years of combined legal experience, there’s nothing our team can’t handle. We’re a float plane. Just in the last year I can think of 20 clients off the top of my head who we’ve helped fly out of the black market into the grey market. As long as they pay their retainers on time, they can sleep well knowing that they are above the law, in a floatplane. It’s as simple as that.”
Wherever one stands in this debate, it seems as though there’s no one right answer. Grey market means different things to different people right now, and even the promise of legalization is no guarantee that the point will be moot anytime soon, as it remains to be seen how successful the legal market will be in competing with the remainder of those who continue to work outside of, beside, underneath, or above the new law.
Featured image courtesy of Saskia.
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*This article is a satirical work. Nothing is true; all is permitted.