It stands to reason that marijuana legalization in one state will lead to an increase in black market sales in another. Estimates of current marijuana sales are in the region of $50 billion, with a large amount of this figure being taken up by black market sales. With the increase of legalization will come a decrease in the number of black market sales. There will no longer be any profit and there will be no consumers, especially in states where people can grow their own marijuana. There are currently 8 states where recreational marijuana is legal – Oregon, Nevada, Massachusetts, Washington, Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Maine. In these states, residents are allowed up to 6 plants in their homes, provided local requirements have been adhered to. When it can be grown in your own home at a fraction of the price there is no real reason to buy from anybody else.
Legalization Fuels Black Market Sales
One reason why marijuana legalization fuels black markets sales in other states is simply that the criminals can no longer make a profit in the legalized state. As such they will have to go to other states in order to keep their “business” alive. With the decline in the price of marijuana that comes with legalization (generally) the product has to be shipped across state lines to an area where it is prohibited. Prohibited products are always more expensive due to the effort that has to be made to produce and distribute them, as can be seen in the USA when alcohol was outlawed.
Currently, over 200 million American citizens live in a state where either medical or recreational marijuana is legal. This legalization has arrived too swiftly for criminal cartels, who are quickly trying to offload the product before the price falls too much. Marijuana smugglers are shipping marijuana across the USA to areas where the price is high and marijuana illegal. What is interesting is that some criminals are now starting up legitimate marijuana businesses in areas where it is legal and are then illegally sending it across the border to areas where it is illegal and the price is still high. Colorado prosecutors recently discovered a 74-man operation producing enough marijuana to generate $200,000 a month. According to one lieutenant in California, Paul Bennett:
The cartel’s going to grow their marijuana in California because the risk is minimal…We have immediately seen and began to experience an increase in these large-scale … plantations where 10,000, 25,000 plants are just growing in the open on public lands.
While some believe that marijuana legalization merely provides criminals with cover, this is a very weak argument. The issue is that it is illegal at all, which is what creates illegality. When recreational marijuana first became legal in states such as Colorado and Washington, many experts believed that it would lead to an increase in consumption and black markets sale, and that it would have many detrimental effects. The opposite was the case, and there was no massive increase in usage. This suggests that those who want to smoke marijuana will obtain it illegally, and it is simply more intelligent to tax and regulate something that citizens are already doing.
Marijuana legalization is also resulting in less marijuana crossing the US border from abroad. The border patrol has reported that between 2011 and 2016, the marijuana seizures dropped by nearly 50%. In this time, a number of states have since legalized recreational marijuana.
One benefit of marijuana legalization is that it will result in higher quality products. What happens is that people need to get marijuana for recreational or medical purposes and there are no procedures in place to check how cannabis is regulated. But with legalization the poor-quality cannabis that was being produced by crime cartels is being pushed out, as there are alternative options. Medical grade marijuana can be obtained from a medical dispensary and in 8 states it is permissible to grow 6 plants in residential areas. Because of legalization there is more competition which always results in better products. This is good news for society as a whole who can select the very best marijuana for their own purposes. Marijuana legalization eradicates crime while at the same time improves the health of regular citizens and provides a huge boost to local, state and federal finances.
There can be no doubt that the majority of marijuana sales is currently “illegal”, because it has not yet been legalized. In Oregon, where recreational marijuana sales are legitimate, only 30% of marijuana sales are legal. According to analysts, it will not be until 2020 that legal sales surpass black market sales. But it is a large $50 billion industry and old habits die hard.
Legalization and the Black Market
As legalization follows in more US states we will see a marked drop in organized crime and associated activity which is harmful to society as a whole. To say that marijuana legalization provides a cover for criminal activity is quite naïve and does not do any justice to the underlying issues. Marijuana provides financial, social and health related benefits that vastly outweigh any arguments to the contrary. The main argument against marijuana legalization is its association with criminality, and of course it is only criminal because it is illegal. This is known as circular reasoning and is a common logical fallacy.