The Black Market For Pot Is Still Thriving In California (HBO)

Recreational marijuana became legal in California in January. But for small-scale veteran growers like Jason Fleming, licensing backlog may shut his business down before he sells a single nug on California’s new legal market.

The state already had a 22 year old medical marijuana industry that outlined a legal route for patients to purchase pot from licensed dispensaries, but left the path for the weed to the shops in what can only be described as a very, very, gray area. The Medical and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act changed all of that — now all growers have to be licensed, and their wares need to be tested in a lab.

“We want to make sure that people are getting safe cannabis, that when they come to a licensed retail store. they know it’s safe to consume,” says Lori Ajax, Chief of the Bureau of Cannabis Control, which regulates distributors. Growers and consumers also pay new state and local taxes that can get as high as 45%.

Despite the significantly higher overhead, Fleming is determined to make it in the new, legal marketplace. He’s complied with licensing law by purchasing a growhouse for $25,000 a month, and filled out all of his paperwork. But Sonoma County has kept him waiting for local approval for six months. Without that, he cannot begin growing, so there’s no money to be made.

“If this keeps continuing then we’re going to have to operate this place as a black market grow to continue to pay for the legal grow,” Fleming told VICE News.

Richard Parrott is the Chief of CalCannabis, the state agency that licenses medical and recreational cultivators, is familiar with stories like Jason’s. He told VICE News that he had heard of backlogs of applications with local authorities, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. “The state doesn’t have any purview over the locals,” he said.

To stay afloat, Jason can use his growhouses that are already up and running to sell to medical dispensaries. He can also sell some of his product at seshes, a type of underground marketplace that operates in the last remaining gray areas of the state’s medical marijuana laws.

But the costs of getting his business off the ground demand more than a flimsy financial life vest. As time passes, an emerging black market fueled by consumers who can’t bear the brunt of the new taxes has come knocking.

Watch Next: This Law Could Make California The Largest Legal Weed Marketplace –

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24 thoughts on “The Black Market For Pot Is Still Thriving In California (HBO)

  1. I really wanted to believe in the dispensary system and (maybe) they would be reasonable with taxing the companies and the distributors for child-proofing, etc in California. But I'm not going to pay $60 for an 1/8th, or $40 for a gram of wax. That's insane. It's time for the people to grow their own medicine and return to our roots.

  2. As long as dispensaries continue to sell weed at ridiculous prices ( $ 60 & up for an 8th ! ) the black market will continue to thrive .  Legalization created more problems than it solved .

  3. Arizona is all Military Manufacturing, Military Bases, or Law Enforcement and Prison,.. so yeah, they want a model that keeps everyone employed, cops/robbers, border also big biz, DEA and CIA and nobody wants the crime to shrink. They got jobs bro! really really high paying jobs.

  4. Since it's gone legal in California I lost all my trimming jobs at former medical now Reciational shops, and I can't get a job anywhere cause of this new law for legally weed, awesome, gonna be homeless soon thanks law..I have a background, and now since they have to run all these background checks I can't get a job in the industry any more,I loved my work too,

  5. I yearn for the day where there will be "craft" weed and "microgroweries" in every town with ridiculously good weed that anybody can purchase supplies for and open up a weed bar or lounge, like microbreweries in every town that sell craft beer. The only regulation needed is on par with alcohol and food industry to make sure the quality is good and safe. Needing expensive licenses and hundreds of thousands of dollars to enter the market will only keep the black market thriving.

  6. the real issue is local municipals as soon as legalization happened all the local city councils came together and banned it san bernardino county and riverside county both have outlawed it pre-emptively if this was something that allowed growers to be legit and legal we would take it but this is an issue that unfortunately is going to be a november issue but no one is talking about the local city councils doing the homie hookups with big business by limiting grow areas to already owned locations or coucils that are being too cautious of the green rush they dont want to be first adopters or concils that believe outdated ways about weed

  7. The taxes are so high, and the clinics are overpriced. There is one clinic I know of in the Valley that offers fair prices. The rest are shit. So ya, Black Markets will continue.

  8. The one who revolutionized the black market was Escobar. You can order cocaine and it will arrive in the form of plastic pellets, completely untraceable. There is a video on youtube, I think he spent $150 million researching how to mix cocaine with plastic and the extraction process. You've got to have knowledge in chemistry to extract the cocaine in plastic. If you are really good, the maximum purity you will lose is 10%, so a 90% extracted cocaine is still very good. The black market is fun lol

  9. Anyone who wants a nutshell version of what happened in California here it is:

    From around 2012 – 2017, during this 5 year period the cannabis black market in California had really lost a lot of its strength and was essentially dying out. Now it was still fairly strong at this time but nothing like how it was 5 years or 10 years before, especially post 2014. By 2017 and in the several preceding years "medical marijuana" had basically taken over most of the market. The pull was that it was the same price but the quality itself was better or the same and the service and system was much more appealing so naturally people flocked to medical mainly for its consistency, reliability, quality and organization. The fact that it couldn't be taxed was another great thing. Well when it became fully legally regulated (2018), no one really thought it was going to happen but somehow both medical and recreational weed became kind of the same thing and now the lines between medical and recreational weed have become blurred. I mean technically they're still "legally" different and I'm sure there's still some dispensaries that only sell to medical patients with a card and therefore don't get taxed but most "medical" dispensaries from what I have seen have also taken on selling recreational weed as well and thus start getting taxed so all these medical weed shops just turned automatically into recreational taxed weed shops for anyone over 21 which people were not anticipating.

    Everyone thought that the recreational taxed weed would just be for like rich people and tourists and that we (the locals) would still keep our cheap (untaxed) medical weed scene but that seems to have vanished. Or at least almost completely vanished. The other wildly unpredicted thing that happened that has changed the whole game is exactly what was talked about in this video; cannabis events and "seshes". These events have completely amped up and intensified the black market in my area. I don't know the details of how it all works but all I know is that people are getting high quality weed for extremely cheap from these places and are selling them on the street. People I knew who were just dealing in quarters and half ounces are now dealing in pounds. And they're not just moving weed they're selling oil, hash, edibles, etc. and on a street level and ALL for cheap. Cheaper than I've seen it in years. Weed right now in CA is cheaper, better or same quality and more accessible and it's all because of the black market being fueled by these weed events. So this combining of "medical" and "recreational" cannabis as well as the intensifying of the black market has really caused the whole weed market in California to do a complete 180. Who knows how long this will last though. All I know is that right now, in nearly mid 2018 it is probably the best time economically to be a user of cannabis. However there are lots of people being hurt by this and black market crime will inevitably rise and law enforcement and government officials will take notice. So I don't expect this flourishing in the market to last forever I just wonder what the next step will be.

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