The rapidly growing cannabis industry has a complicated relationship with the competing retail sector often described with a loaded term: the Black Market.
“Black Market” is a reference to exchanges where seller and buyer deal in illegal goods and/or avoid taxes and regulations by conducting their business “in the shadows,” hence “black.”
It’s also an example where “black” is used to denigrate the subject (black sheep, black mark) by applying negative attributes, as well as an example of subtle racism. The preferred term is the “unregulated marketplace” (UM).
There are some unpleasant aspects to the UM, but they were present long before regulated programs. And they’ll continue to exist and, in some markets, thrive.
In California, for every dollar spent in the regulated market, three are spent in the UM. This isn’t welcome news to those who obtained their cannabis business licenses, pay exorbitant taxes, and deal with myriad challenges not imposed on any other industry in the world.
So why are people still scoring their ’dro in the… shaddros? (Wait. Come back.)
Convenience: Cities and municipalities that have banned the production and sale of cannabis can create “dispensary deserts,” leaving residents with the sole legal option of travelling hundreds of miles to the nearest licensed dispensary. California has a mere 591 licensed dispensaries as of September 2019, which means over 70 percent of the state is such a desert.
Corporate Cannabis Chads Suck: I strongly suspect I don’t share the same values as the execs at MedMen and would rather my cannabis dollars go to a friend who grows weed than to those who advocated against allowing medical MJ patients to grow for themselves in New York.
My weed-growing friend also believes that trying to hurt medical MJ patients sucks, so yeah—I’m gonna go ahead and buy their (superior) weed instead. I know exactly where my money is going: their pocket. It’s the essence of supporting small craft producers and shopping within the community.
Respect the OGs: The adult use program is built upon the back of the medical program, and both programs are born from the suffering of the UM. This was the original “cannabis industry” and didn’t come with multi-million dollar golden parachutes that modern cannabis CEOs award themselves.
It did come with the constant threat of arrest, jail time, or worse for the “crime” of something that is now enriching people like John Boehner. The people who smuggled, sweated, and struggled deserve as much enrichment as he does, to say the least.
There are far more benefits than drawbacks to purchasing tested products from a licensed dispensary, but doing otherwise shouldn’t be viewed as a failing. The best way to reduce or eliminate the UM is to welcome its members into the fold with amnesty, licensing support, and other programs. There’s room for us all.