Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The illegal online marijuana market is raising security concerns among experts

First Published:

As police continue to shut down illegal pot shops across the province, the online market continues to flourish in a multi-billion dollar illegal market.

Just four days after Georigia Peach saw all it’s illegal marijuana dispensaries shut down, the store reminded it’s followers that they could still buy their weed on their website, one of many illegally-run sites.

Statistics Canada reports that the illicit weed market is worth about $1.5 billion, nearly a quarter of total Canadian market.

Which means for OPP, “Hence why our provincial joint forces cannabis enforcement team is taking this so seriously is the amount of money funding other organized crime.”

Compared to the government-funded site, illegal online retailers offer cheaper prices but in turn leave consumers vulnerable to cyber threats, Police say, “they have no responsibility to take security seriously.”

“You may never know that that data may be released through your cannabis vendor because these get sold to wholesalers who then sell on the data to other parties.”

Cyber security expert Christian Leuprecht does admit that while giant crime organizations tend to spend more on cyber security, using one still leaves consumers with a moral decision, “I don’t know how prepared you or your viewers are to hand over your personal data to an organized crime syndicate.”

While they haven’t made any arrests yet, the OPP say tracking down those behind illegal weed sites is no different than other cyber crime.

“We do proactive investigations on the internet on the dark web actively looking for those individuals. When we go after the individuals after start to seize their proceeds of crime, seize their property behind the crime and start impacting them that way hopefully the message gets out that those people that are responsible, this will be taken seriously.”

Leuprecht also feels that the penalties associated with illegally selling pot could be increased. Guilty companies are charged up to $1 million in Ontario.

“Currently if you’re caught with illicit cannabis you’ll have it confiscated but you’re not subject to what would be a significant fines due to the amount of lost tax revenue so I think part of what the ontario government needs to look at is how they can change the incentive structure for people who engage in illegal retail.”

Christian Leprecht also suggests the interception of illegal dispensary delivery vehicles and removing the production licences of producers he says double dip between the legal and illegal marketplace.

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