How Much Will Weed Legalization Impact California’s Black Market?

How Much Will Weed Legalization Impact California’s Black Market?

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Wiping out California’s cannabis black market has been the promise of Proposition 64 for some and the fear for others. But a new comprehensive report from the California Department of Food and Agriculture predicts that the new regulated system for legal marijuana may live more symbiotically with the state’s entrenched illegal weed market.

Part of the reason that Prop 64 may have a lesser effect on the black market is that, of the state’s estimated annual production of 13.5 million pounds of cannabis, only roughly 2.5 million pounds is consumed within the state. That means that over 80 percent of California bud is likely being exported to other states.

Proposition 64 won’t make shipping weed across state lines any less illegal and it won’t make potheads in other states want California product any less, so it’s unlikely that the state amendment will affect the existing black market in profound ways.

The report also predicts that even among California stoners, the black market will likely continue to have a place. About half of all cannabis bought in The Golden State will continue to be from illegal sources, according to the CDFA.

“Those sales opportunities will still be there,” Hezekiah Allen told CALmatters. Allen is executive director of the California Growers Association, which recently surveyed the 1,000 cannabis companies it represents. The survey showed that 85 percent of these companies intend to get a legal license, but 40 percent plan to continue selling black market weed if they can’t attain one.

But some say that the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s projections may be off. A spokesperson for the Proposition 64 campaign noted that the CDFA’s figures are based on the current behavior of California’s market and legal recreational sales don’t begin until next year.

He also said that that just because the black market may still exist does not negate the usefulness of legalization. “No one ever promised to completely eliminate the black market–that’s like promising security cameras will completely eliminate shoplifting–but it will be significantly reduced,” spokesperson Jason Kinney said via email.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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