Despite the ever-growing legal cannabis market boasting a record-breaking 17.5 billion dollars in sales last year, black market cannabis thrives. Even in states like California where the infrastructure for above-board legal markets already exists, black market shops still rake in profits. So why is the illegal market getting snuffed out by the legal one? Wouldn’t consumers prefer to buy their cannabis from a licensed vendor? What exactly is the difference between the legal cannabis sold in dispensaries and the buds on the black market anyway? Keep reading to learn more about black market hemp and marijuana.
Is The Quality Of Black Market Cannabis Different Than Legal Cannabis?
Most of the time, the illegal cannabis purchased on the black market is of similar quality and safety to the average low-cost to mid-range products you’d see at a legal dispensary. Most of the cultivators who spend the time and energy to grow truly exceptional flower tend to sell their plants through legitimate channels so that the cannabis community can recognize their hard work and accomplishments. In order to get the best buds, you’ll likely need to go to a legitimate dispensary.
While most black market cannabis products are likely safe, there’s no guarantee. California’s testing requirements for cannabis products are some of the most stringent in the country. Not only do they require tests for potency, but also tests for the potentially harmful substances that may be found in cannabis products like mycotoxins, heavy metals, foreign materials, or residual pesticides. In contrast, black market cultivators are under no obligation to perform any sort of testing, and most of them don’t since the expenses can chip away at their bottom line. If your health and safety are a concern, it’s highly advised to stick with the legal stuff.
Why The Black Market Persists In California?
If legal cannabis is safer and of better quality than what’s available on the black market, why is there still a black market in California? Wouldn’t consumers dry up the business by self-selecting legal products, and wouldn’t cultivators and manufacturers prefer to go through legal channels?
For one, some people don’t even realize the cannabis their purchasing is coming from an unlicensed retailer. Many black market dealers operate full storefronts with delivery options included that seem so legit, even sometimes the employees don’t realize there illegal. As a consumer who wants to avoid potentially illicit dispensaries, there are a few things to be on the lookout for. Pot shops with buds displayed in unlabeled glass jars, for example, likely aren’t running legitimate businesses. Real licensed dispensaries carry products from reputable manufacturers that have been adequately labeled. Recently, the Bureau of Cannabis Control created unique QR Code emblems that can be placed on the windows in a legal cannabis shop that when scanned by a smartphone will pull up the shops licensing info. Alternatively, you could search weedmaps or leafly to find a list of legitimate dispensaries in your neighborhood.
The reason cultivators, retailers, and manufacturers continue to operate in the black market has to do with one thing: money. The regulations and taxes that come with entering the cannabis trade legally, can start to chip away at profits. As we mentioned earlier, things like testing that may be extremely important to the health of consumers can be ignored when operating a black market business.
Another issue has to do with saturation. There just isn’t enough legal dispensaries in the state currently to keep up with consumer demand. Only a small percentage of Californian dispensaries currently operating are licensed. However, as regulatory offices begin cracking down on illegal weed stores, that number may start to shift.