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Why hasn’t legal weed killed off the black marijuana market?

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“360” shows you diverse perspectives on today’s top stories and discussions.

What is happening

It’s been 10 years since the first states legalized recreational marijuana. Over the past decade, the weed business has exploded into a huge industry as the use of personal pots has rapidly spread to other parts of the country.

One of the primary arguments used by legalization advocates – in addition to the impact on health, criminal justice and personal freedom – is the belief that a legal marijuana market would put an end to the illegal weed trade and criminal activity surrounding it.

But this did not happen. Black marijuana market So much so that legitimate growers and sellers are struggling to stay afloat in areas of the country awash with illegal weed. in For example, the illegal weed market is “much larger than the authorized community,” according to an analysis from . The same report found that unlicensed farms outnumbered legal operations by as much as 10 to 1 in the state’s largest farming districts.

Other states that have legalized recreational pot use, incl And the faced similar challenges. He grappled with the thriving “gray market” of unlicensed herbalists that emerged as the state worked to create its new system of legal retailers. Other countries that have legalized pot like And the I faced similar challenges.

The thriving black market for marijuana is not only hurting legitimate sellers trying to compete. The proliferation of illegal pot farms has also greatly increased their numbers and human trafficking and severe environmental damage in areas where illegal cultivation is concentrated. States also lose hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue when weed sales occur outside of the legal market.

Why there is a debate

There is a certain amount of logic to the idea that legal cannabis will eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, the black market for marijuana. But lawmakers, cannabis industry insiders and outside experts say there are a number of reasons why illegal cannabis has not been cracked down.

The most common explanation is that the laws governing legal trading in most states give huge advantages to illegal traders and even push legitimate operators into the black market. In many cases, starting and maintaining a legitimate marijuana business—whether it’s a farm, distributor, or retail store—means having to deal with fees, taxes, and bureaucratic hoops that can make it difficult for many businesses to stay afloat, let alone survive. make a profit. This additional expense also drives up the price of legal pot products, giving consumers an incentive to buy cheaper herbs from unregistered sellers.

Legalization supporters often argue that the black market will continue to exist as long as marijuana remains illegal in large swathes of the country. Not only do most states still ban recreational pots, but states like California also allow individual cities to ban them. Pro-pot advocates say this gives illegal sellers a huge consumer base for their products that would have disappeared if marijuana was legal everywhere.

However, many conservatives say the push for legalization is itself the problem. They maintain that the growing acceptance of marijuana has greatly increased their potential customer base, raising demand to a level that legal sellers cannot meet. Some argue that the expansion of the legal market has made it impossible for the authorities to distinguish between legitimate and illegal operators. Others say that linking legalization to criminal justice reform efforts, as many Democratic-run states have done, means that criminals know they won’t face severe penalties if caught.

What’s Next

Despite ongoing struggles to contain the black market, marijuana legalization is poised to expand to more states soon. It will start allowing recreational use next year. voters in They will decide whether their state should do the same in March. Campaigns to get rationing measures on future ballots are .

Outlook – Perspectives

Legitimate operators cannot compete due to excessive regulation and excessive taxation

The fact that unlicensed pot dealers continue to thrive in California is a testament to the ways in which the state has erred in rationing. Most local governments do not allow recreational sales, and even those that do often impose limits that artificially restrict supply. Bureaucratic barriers, costly regulations, And high taxes are terrible deterrents for weed dealers who might be tempted to go legal.” – Jacob Slom,

Heavy taxes drive up prices, which pushes users into the black market

“Too much tax and regulatory baggage is a recipe for legal weed to stagnate and illegal weed to thrive. The more expensive legal weed is, the more people will choose illegal weed — especially consumers who buy the most weed and therefore care a lot about the price difference.” – Ruben Goldstein and Daniel Sumner,

Rationing created millions of new clients for the black market

“If you make cannabis legal, you will encourage black market dealers to either get in on the game or increase the amount of illegal weed they actually sell. … By legalizing you only increase that demand, a demand that the cartels are clearly willing and able to meet.” . – Tom Roblesky,

Small illegal traders can easily be accommodated in the legitimate market

“Yes, the ‘black market’ man in the street is still going strong and receiving visitors at all times as usual. But, due to the collective power of the state-sanctioned dispensaries, the man in the street is still a secret entity, just like before.” – Bob Flaherty,

Your legal weed business proposal has completely collapsed

“Boom-and-bust cycles are part of the history of this county, from gold mining in the nineteenth century to, a century later, the collapse of the logging industry. Legal hemp was going to be a lifeline for residents. But that promise soon fell apart.” – Adam Muharraq, Robert J. Lopez, and Robin Vives,

Misguided social justice motives hinder law enforcement’s ability to crack down on criminal operators

“The unlicensed market operates with impunity because police pot is thought to be racist and bad. … The public really wants not just a marijuana market but a regulated market. However, leaders are very concerned about stopping criminals from running businesses that routinely break the law.” to offer such a market.” – Charles Finn Lyman,

It is naive to think that illegal pot sales will really disappear

“For people who think this is only a cannabis problem, it’s important to remember that there are black markets for alcohol, cigarettes, and a lot of commodities. Fighting the black market…it’s an almost impossible task. It’s a fight to reduce it.” —John Hudak, expert on the cannabis industry, in

The black market will continue as long as weed is illegal anywhere in the United States

“Federal decriminalization—removing cannabis from the list of controlled substances—is, by all accounts, the magic bullet. It will remove [tax penalties]allowing normal access to banks and facilitating more interstate sales.” — Will Jakovic,

Legal markets fuel illegal sales in states where pot is still prohibited

“Legalization also benefited criminals in states where pot was still illegal. Gangs seized the opportunity to smuggle produce across state lines, selling legal weed at huge profits. … Dealers were suddenly stocking up on an abundance of different cannabis strains—all of which were grown under a charade Pot laws are statewide—plus e-cigarettes, foods, and concentrates, which wouldn’t have traveled more than 1,000 miles across America if legalization hadn’t happened.” — Mike Adams, USA TODAY

There are no practical or moral incentives for users to abandon their old purchasing habits

“Most growers and sellers have not broken any laws other than the production and sale of cannabis. Consequently, many cannabis consumers did not see a great moral, ethical, or safety advantage to switching from their innocuous long-term providers to the new legal system.” Mike Devillar, drug policy researcher

Image illustration: Yahoo News; Images: Getty Images


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