How The Black Market Is Threatening The Legal Cannabis Market

The outbreak of deadly vape-related illnesses is shining a spotlight on the booming $52 billion illegal market. Why are shady dealers still stealing business from legitimate companies?

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This story appears in the December 2019 issue of Green Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

One morning last August, Jonathan Doneson woke up with a cough that shot straight through his rib cage. “It killed me,” says the 52-year-old, who runs a women’s apparel company with his wife. “It was like I’d taken a really big bong hit.” 

Jane Khomi | Getty Images

But Doneson didn’t have a bong. What he had was a discreet vape pen with marijuana cartridges he’d bought from a friend. For months, he’d been hitting it eight to 12 times a day, installing a new cartridge when the old one ran out and keeping a low-grade buzz to manage his stress. The habit felt so harmless that he didn’t even think to mention it to the doctor who X-rayed him following his bong-level cough. 

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