With the recent full-throttle decriminalization of cannabis in states like Nevada, the question must be asked: does weed legalization fuel black markets for weed in other states? Or rather, are black market dealers taking weed cultivated in states where it is legal to do so, and then shipping it out to states where it isn’t? According to law enforcement, the answer is a solid “yes.” According to activists and legislators, not so much.
Black Markets on the Rise?
According to Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, legalization isn’t a way to put an end to the underground cannabis trade. Citing a bust this past June in which law enforcement busted a 74-person drug ring which had, according to the estimation of prosecutors, produced roughly $200,000 worth of tax-free pot for the past four years.
“Those of us in law enforcement kept saying, ‘(Legalization) will not stop crime. You’re just making it easier for people who want to make money. What we’ve done is give them cover,’ ” Coffman recently told USA Today.
Law enforcement agencies have gone on the record to express similar sentiments. As a report authored by the Oregon State Police argued, legalization has provided an effective means to launder cannabis products and proceeds, where in essence, actors can exploit legal mechanisms to obscure products’ origin and conceal true profits, thereby blurring the boundaries of the legal market and complicating enforcement efforts.”
Despite this stance expressed by police agencies, the data seems to argue differently. As per USA Today:
“Less marijuana is crossing the U.S. border, according to the U.S. Border Patrol. The agency’s marijuana seizures dropped by almost half between 2011 and 2016, falling from 2.5 million pounds to 1.3 million pounds.
Agents were hesitant to speculate about what caused the drop, but during that time U.S. consumers increasingly began buying domestic pot.”
In other words: the black market overall has experienced a sharp decline in sales with the rise of domestic legalization and decriminalization.
Final Hit: Does Weed Legalization Fuel Black Markets in Other States?
So, does weed legalization fuel black markets for cannabis in other states? Regardless as to whether it does or not, some see a simple solution to this dilemma: federal legalization.
“These guys are on the wrong side of history,” Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project said of decriminalization naysayers. “There’s an easy way to solve that problem: Stop making arrests.”
Colorado Governor Jim Hickenlooper also expressed similar sentiments, arguing that the opposition prizes sensationalism over solid fact.
“What I consistently say and continue to say is that our worst fears have not materialized,” Hickenlooper stated. “We haven’t seen a spike in usage. We haven’t seen a spike in usage among teenagers. We haven’t seen an outbreak of people driving while high.
“I tell other governors they should probably wait a few years, and let’s make sure there aren’t unintended consequences we can’t see at this moment,” he then added. “But it is fair to say that it has gone better than many people have expected.”