California’s new era of legalized recreational marijuana was expected to benefit legitimate business owners and industry workers, while also putting street gangs and criminals out of business. However, some reports suggest that legalization has unexpectedly benefitted an entirely different sector: the black market.
That’s right. Some reports indicate that Prop 64 has actually breathed new life into the black market.
There could be a variety of reasons, but one, in particular, stands out: taxes.
Prop 64 wasn’t just about legalization, it also meant the regulation and taxation of marijuana. Those last two parts were afterthoughts when everyone was partying it up on New Years. The sobering reality after New Years was that some have people experienced sticker shock due to the new taxes on their dispensary products.
Hey, we get it. Why pay $17 dollars for a gram when you can get a gram from some guy on the street for $10? It may seem like a no-brainer for those that are budget-conscious, but there are more factors to consider with going to the illegal black market for your bud.
Here are three of them.
No regulation means no quality-control
Most likely, at one point or another, you or a friend have doled out sweaty dollar bills to exchange for a raggedy bag of dried up skunk. Which brings us to point number one: black market has no regulation.
We know the “r-word” here isn’t sexy, but there are reasons we want regulation. I’ll explain.
When you go to the dispensary, you probably see your favorite product with nice, clean packaging, labels, strain name and company logo. Look hard enough, and you’ll find even more information: ingredients, potency, warning labels, tracking numbers, and tamper-proof openings.
All of this; the packaging, the labels, the warnings — is due to regulations that legal market businesses are required to abide by for compliance. Does it sound sexy? No. But the ultimate goal of regulation is to protect you, the consumer.
When you go to this dispensary and buy a product that is compliant with legal standards, you aren’t just buying a product. You are buying a guarantee that the product is safe, that it is quality-tested, controlled, and that you are properly informed of what you are putting into your body.
Does black market weed have this? No.
And that means you don’t know what you’re getting, or what you are putting into your body.
Hey, it could be some really dank bud at a good price. Or it could be ground up oregano leaves or spice that will send you to the hospital. Who knows? That’s the risk you take with street weed.
Legal weed is safe and consistent — black market isn’t
The second reason that people should reconsider going to the black market is that the experience and product are inconsistent and risky.
Are you really getting an organically-grown strain from an open-air farm somewhere in California? Or are you getting an indoor grow that has been sitting in someone’s garage for weeks, picking up toxins and chemicals from someone’s beat-up, dirty-ass science project lab?
With black market weed, you don’t know where your weed comes from. It could be fire one week, and then next week you could be getting leftover shake. Not only that, but you are at the mercy of the dealer. Buying anything from someone illegally, from someone you don’t know or can’t trust, is not advised.
When you purchase products that are fully compliant with state regulations, that extra tax money goes to ensuring that the product is safe and consistent with what the packaging declares it to be.
You know what you’re getting, and you aren’t making compromises with your health or security. That’s what consistency is all about. And if you are a medical patient using marijuana to treat a disease or disorder — consistency becomes even more important.
Dispensaries are dependable, have set working hours, and are legally bound to serve products that are consistent and safe.
Legalized weed benefits your community and the greater economy — black market weed does not
We’ve covered how going to the black market compromises your safety and satisfaction on a personal level — but what about the bigger picture?
One of the reasons that state lawmakers and voters were able to come together and push legalization was the potential for stopping gangs, lowering crime, generating new jobs and businesses, and bringing in tax revenue that would help fund social programs and education.
Unfortunately, none of that is actually going to happen if we start falling backward into buying weed off of the streets. Sure, it may be a little cheaper. But have you ever thought about the compromise you make?
The money that you spend on legitimate businesses goes back to your community. You are supporting legitimate jobs for hard-working, tax-paying people in all aspects of the industry: from the family farmers to the budtenders that work to make you, the customer, happy.
Those same tax dollars go to supporting social and educational programs that are important for many communities in California. As well as cannabis research.
The black market? Well, there’s no telling where your money goes. But there’s no denying that black market drugs are a source of life and income for criminals, gangs, and drug cartels. Which one would you rather support?
The risks of black market weed
One of the side effects of legalization is that taxes have increased the costs of cannabis goods for consumers. This has pushed many people toward the lower costs yet riskier alternative of black market marijuana.
People often forget that marijuana bought on the street is unregulated, untested, and inconsistent. There’s no guarantee for public or personal safety. With legal cannabis storefronts, you are getting a product that is tested for quality-control, consistency, and safety.
One final consideration to make is where your money is going. When you purchase marijuana at a licensed storefront, you know your money is supporting farmers, workers, and small business owners. This tax money will also go to social and educational programs, as well as cannabis research.
You, the consumer, have the ultimate say in what kind of product, market, and world you want to create.
Do you have any thoughts on black market or legal market marijuana? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!