Marijuana Legalization Makes Black Market Better In Prohibition States

Photo: Shutterstock

There is no denying that the outcome of the midterm elections was a significant victory for marijuana legalization in the United States. There are now ten states with recreational laws on the books and Missouri, a state once known for handing down life sentences to habitual pot offenders, is now poised to unleash the first genuinely liberal medical marijuana program since California forged this concept more than two decades ago. Even Utah, a state where the men, at least the most religious of the breed, are still driven by some bizarre, dark force to take on more than one wife, legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. If only North Dakota would have been successful in its pursuit of recreational use, we’d be batting a hundred out here.

Nevertheless, these developments are good for pot consumers all across the country. Because – and I must confess that this admission is not going to make me popular with cannabis purists – legal marijuana states have a way of making the black market better in areas of prohibition. It seems the more marijuana legalization takes hold across the nation, the more the weed situation improves for those people living in parts of the country where lawmakers refuse to make a change.

For those old enough to remember when the idea of legal weed was a just pipe dream discussed among friends while flipping through the pages of High Times magazine, it was a time when the friendly-neighborhood dope man had only one kind of weed available for sale. Back then, nobody called it cannabis. It was pot, dope, smoke and it was usually some trash grass from Mexico or some moderately okie dokie homegrown stuff manufactured by the redneck reefer farmers in the Midwest. At that time, cannabis consumers had only two choices: they could go without, stay sober and deal with the savagery of the world head unchanged; or they could drop a few bucks on a sad sack of bud and hope for the best.

But ever since Colorado and Washington became the first states to go fully legal six years ago, the variety of cannabis products on the black market has improved big time. So much that Mexican drug cartels really don’t even bother trying to sell their subpar brick weed to Americans anymore. Here, in Southern Indiana, where my journalistic compound is located, we never see Mexican marijuana, only pot smuggled in from places like Colorado, California and Illinois. Occasionally, some decent weed from Kentucky will come across the table, but that’s about as foreign as it gets around here. The black market is all domestically supplied at this point, just one of the reasons the cartels are now shifting their focus to harder drugs like meth and heroin.

These days, even low-level dealers are out there slinging nine different strains, disposable vaporizers and edibles – lots of cannabis edibles.

Just last month, Nebraska State Police seized 1,600 pounds of edible pot, including nearly 500 boxes of THC-infused chocolate bars. “Troopers said they rarely came across edibles before Colorado legalized marijuana,” reported NBC-affiliate WOWT News. Police also prevented a bunch of wax and about 11 pounds of flower from making it to its final destination. And that’s just what they were lucky enough to discover. Law enforcement is no way coming close to scratching the surface of the new legally-supplied black market.

I’m telling you, it’s a real stonersbord out here. Black market drug dealers are now even making house calls – sometimes still wearing their McDonald’s uniform – and, believe it or not, they do their best to help educate their customers on the differences between each strain and the purported therapeutic benefits each might provide. It’s a rather impressive presentation, I’ve got to tell you. Portable budtenders – who would have thunk it? It’s an entirely different scene than it was twenty years ago, back when a prospective pot buyer had to make a bunch of calls, wait and wait some more, and then perhaps drive around the block a couple of times before picking up anything more than a quarter ounce.

Ask these modern day dealers about their hookup, and they’ll just say something like, “Man, we’ve got a friend out West.” But now that Michigan and Missouri have gone legal, you can almost hear the gap between the legal and black market seal shut. These specific developments are destined to upgrade underground weed commerce in places like Indiana, Kentucky and even Ohio. Probably further south too.

You won’t hear anything about that this week at the MJBizCon in Las Vegas. In fact, the cannabis advocacy community might be upset that I would dare use a public forum to publicize the fact that legal marijuana breeds a better black market. The headline of this article alone is sure to cause an outpouring of hate mail and death threats. But I didn’t come here to make friends. Under most circumstances, I’d keep my mouth shut about such a good thing. Especially one that continues to benefit me on a regular basis.

But I believe it is critical to engage in an open dialogue about this subject to further discount the effectiveness of prohibition. Perhaps providing the population with the truth about what’s really going on might inspire more anti-pot lawmakers from Texas to Capitol Hill to get on board with the idea of allowing marijuana to become part of American commerce. Let’s face it — marijuana advocates have been pushing for full-blown legalization for decades. At this point, we need all the help we can to see the vision through to the end.

In spite of all the progress marijuana has made over the past several years, some legislative grinders remain convinced that prohibiting pot from going legal in their neck of the woods is the key to suppressing evil. But as I mentioned earlier, marijuana is presently flourishing in all parts of the country, even in places where it is against the law, which proves that cutting the dogs of the drug war loose in select states is only making the impact more of a problem for those trying to hold the leash.

Missouri just legalized a medical marijuana program that will allow people with just about any health condition to purchase and grow a substantial amount of cannabis each month as long as they have permission from a doctor. But the fine folks of the Show-Me State didn’t need legalization to get their hands on weed. They needed it to stop Roscoe Law from harassing them every time they drove home with grass in the trunk.

Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams told the News-Leader last week that the state has been “inundated” with marijuana from legal states. Other reports published over the past few years have suggested that this legally supplied black market is happening all across the nation.

“[Post legalization] we have seen an increase in the black market because the marijuana… is being shipped out of state,” Lieutenant Andrew Howard with the Denver Police Department said in a September press release.

But I don’t need the cops to tell me legal weed is slipping across state lines. I’m experiencing it first-hand – and I have been since about four months into Colorado’s recreational marijuana scene. My guess is if you are a pot consumer living in a prohibition state, you, too, are probably enjoying the illegal-legal weed on a regular basis. Legal marijuana is everywhere…literally everywhere.

So, when I hear that conservative lawmakers in states like Illinois are still hell-bent on opposing legalization in 2019, even though governor-elect J.D. Pritzker has been in the news since the election talking about how he wants to legalize marijuana ”nearly right away,” I have to ask: What’s the point?

The state is suffering an $8 billion budget deficit, and a recent study from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute shows that it continues to spend exuberant amounts of money every year policing pot-related crimes.

“Police and courts still spend millions of dollars each year prosecuting marijuana offenses and hundreds of people remain incarcerated at a cost of more than $22,000 each year per inmate,” study co-author Jill Manzo said in a press release. “By ending these prohibitions, Illinois taxpayers could save $18.4 million per year.”

Furthermore, the report shows the legalization of marijuana in the Land of Lincoln would create 24,000 new jobs, generate more than $500 million in state and local tax revenue, and boost the state’s economy by $1 billion per year. Not too shabby for simply capitalizing on a product that’s going to be around no matter what the government does.

So what are lawmakers really worried about?

These folks often scream about an influx of stoned kids, idiots driving high and a myriad of other unsubstantiated boogeymen. It’s funny – the suits act like they are the only ones who do not want to this level of chaos to erupt in our society. None of us do. But here’s the thing: None of the horrors predicted to gas the population on the heels of marijuana legalization have occurred in any of the states that have been bold enough to take the plunge. Just ask outgoing Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper – a man who initially opposed this level of cannabis reform when it was put on the ballot in his state. He recently told Rolling Stone that “the worst things that we had great fear about – spikes in consumption, kids, people driving while high – we haven’t seen any of that.”

But what Colorado has seen is a decrease in drug dealers, Hickenlooper added. Perhaps this is because the only money to be made in the black market pot trade these days is by supplying prohibition states. All that I can tell you is now that marijuana legalization has become more widespread, implementing similar policies is the solution for other states, not a catalyst for additional problems. Marijuana legalization is no longer an experiment – the test is over and 66 percent of the American population is now ready to see it happen. But go ahead prohibition states, take your time. You too, Uncle Sam. There are still plenty of weed dealers out here bringing us the good stuff.