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Black Market Weed Is Still Popular In Some States, But It's Also Very Dangerous

If you want to stay safe when using cannabis, then stay out of the black market.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. This article was updated on October 17, 2019

The marijuana black market remains strong across the country, even in places with legal adult-use sales such as California. The main reason for this is that black market marijuana is cheap, although consumer confusion about decriminalization may also contribute to the problem.

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What’s certain is that, for consumers, black market cannabis is dangerous. Legal cannabis businesses -- both for medical and recreational marijuana -- must meet state standards for the growing of marijuana, the product of marijuana-related products (including CBD), and the sale of cannabis-related products.

In the black market, of course, no such standards exist, which is why the entire industry is urging for a regulated market.

“When we take this off the market, this black market marijuana, it could save a life,” Captain Holly Francisco of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department told ABC 7 News after a recent raid by deputies on illegal dispensaries.

RELATED: How Vape Manufacturers Are Striking Back Against Counterfeits

What’s Driving The Continued Presence Of The Black Market?

Money is the main driver of the black market. Some buyers still want cheaper marijuana, however, illegal dealers still want to operate in a business with high profit margins; regardless of it being illegal.

On a positive note, arrests involving black market cannabis have picked up in recent months, according to a roundup of police arrests of illegal growers done by Newsweek. Las Vegas also is dealing with a persistent black market.

They report that “black market marijuana is big business,” even in the 11 states with legal recreational weed, and the 33 with legal medical marijuana.

So why are consumers continuing to go to the black market, despite the fact it's more dangerous? Here are some reasons.

It’s cheaper. Buying weed illegally in California saves consumers about 27 percent on costs, according to Priceonomics. Other examples include 73 percent savings on buying black market marijuana in Medford, Oregon, and $160 in savings when buying black market weed in Michigan. 

People are confused. Some people may not understand that decriminalization of marijuana relates to possession of small amounts, not marijuana sales through illegal means. According to Newsweek, there has been some confusion in this area, especially when black market operations go to the effort of presenting themselves as a legal dispensary. 

Local authorities ban legal sales. In many cities and towns, even in states with legalized marijuana, local officials have banned cannabis sales. This has opened the door for illegal operators, according to ABC 7.

Other states. In some cases, cannabis has been grown in a legal state and then shipped for sale to a state where cannabis is not legal. This type of exporting across state lines is banned federally, but it's occuring on the black market illegally. An example of such interstate exportation comes from Oregon and Idaho. Politico reported that the amount of illegal marijuana in Idaho has increased a staggering 665 percent since neighboring Oregon legalized marijuana.

RELATED: The 'Cannabis Courtesan' Fights For Legal Cannabis In Legal Brothels

Black Market Marijuana Presents Health Dangers

Black market marijuana puts a whole new spin on the old phrase, “You get what you pay for.” While legal marijuana is regulated and alerts are sent when there are issues, illegal weed doesn’t have to meet such a standard.

In the arrests that Holly Francisco of the L.A. County Sheriff’s department talked about above, some of the marijuana being sold was making buyers sick. And officials have started to link the recent string of vape-related illnesses to black market marijuana products.

Nationwide legalization could address some of these issues, according to experts and law enforcement personnel interviewed by Politico

With marijuana illegal in many places across the country, there will always be a market for illegal weed. Following the lead of Canada -- and, possibly, Mexico -- and making marijuana legal at the national level would eliminate such an issue.

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