Over the past several years, many states have campaigned to have cannabis legalized. In some states, this legalization has passed without issue. In other states, however, many voters are still fighting the change. Even many police offers are in favor of cannabis legalization. These five reasons police want cannabis legalized may help shape your opinion.
1. The Black Market is Dangerous
Cannabis itself doesn’t have nearly as many dangerous effects as many of the drugs currently available in the black market. When it’s purchased through legitimate sources, cannabis offers a safe experience that will keep its users from experiencing most of the worst side effects of traditional drugs. On the black market, however, cannabis can be mixed with a variety of other drugs–many of which aren’t disclosed to buyers before they use it.
2. The “War on Pot” Isn’t Helping the Public
Police officers have plenty of dangerous crimes to deal with on a daily basis. They deal with dangerous individuals every day–and cannabis users simply aren’t. Instead of devoting that time and money to removing cannabis from the streets, police offers prefer to focus their efforts on genuine crimes that have the potential to significantly impact other people. When their efforts are focused on catching people with a low-impact drug, officers aren’t able to spend the effort they need to on bigger crimes.
3. Communities Want Legalization
Many officers are devoted to their communities and the people who live in them. They want to have great relationships with the populations they serve. Going after individuals who choose to use marijuana, however, destroys those relationships and leads to a lack of trust. Every time an officer arrests someone for cannabis possession, they’re creating a negative interaction that has the potential to destroy their relationship with other members of that community. Not only that, officers who are clearly in favor of legalization of cannabis will be able to boost their relationships with those members of their communities.
4. Police Practices Deteriorate with Marijuana Arrests
In many cases, arrests for possession of cannabis, turning in drugs to the office, and other practices associated with marijuana arrests lead to illegal or unethical police practices. Many departments have discovered that the best way to increase marijuana arrests is to offer incentives. Unfortunately, those incentives also encourage officers to engage in unethical or illegal practices like informants who admit to lying, bringing in SWAT teams to take care of marijuana arrests, and even illegal searches. Many departments are pressured to make drug arrests, reducing the numbers of dealers and users on the streets–and as a result, officers find themselves going to extreme lengths to capture individuals who would not be engaging in illegal behavior, were cannabis legalized.
5. Cops Want Kids to Be Safe
Cracking down on marijuana use, unfortunately, has little impact on whether or not people are going to use marijuana. Legalizing it, however, would create better controls over who was able to purchase marijuana–not to mention instituting quality control that would prevent kids from getting their hands on marijuana laced with other materials. By legalizing cannabis, most states will add age restrictions that will make it increasingly difficult for kids to get their hands on it–and in the process, keep them safer.
Cannabis use has been hotly debated across many states over the past several years. Some states have chosen to legalize; others are still pushing against it. Many police officers, however, are falling down heavily on the side of legalization–and with good reason. In states where cannabis use has been legalized, police departments are able to use their resources for crimes that really matter. Not only that, legalization initiates higher levels of control over cannabis and keeps tainted marijuana from making its way onto the street–a vital step in keeping high school students safer.
With the recent success of the recreational marijuana legalization movement in states like Colorado, Washington and Oregon, people often wonder whether anyone in these fortunate places would ever go back to getting their ganja via the “black market”.
As a native Coloradan, I’ve stood in utter amazement over the last two years as marijuana dispensaries have quickly outnumbered Starbucks. Nowadays, if I crack open my nug jar and find nothing but a trichome-covered void staring back at me, all I have to do in order to get a “refill” is drive about seven minutes to the nearest dispensary and purchase more. No dark alley meetings with sketchy dealers or calling friends-of-friends at 8 p.m. on a weekend to find someone that might be holding.
I just get in my car, head to the trusty greenery, and that’s all she wrote. I can be home and wrist-deep in munchies in less than fifteen minutes.
So why would I – or anyone for that matter – even consider going back to the black market when we have the ease and convenience of dispensaries right at our front doors?
To be honest, the answers might surprise you.
A Friend with Weed is a Friend Indeed
To find someone that still purchases marijuana “illegally” on the black market in a state where recreational marijuana is legal, I reached out to a dear friend of mine, whom we’ll call Allie.
Allie lives on the outer fringe of Colorado in a town that is both small and scenic. It has numerous charms and conveniences, but a nearby dispensary is not one of them. For her to legally get cannabis through a dispensary, she has to travel 40 minutes by highway to the nearest one. Since there is a lack of competition in this part of the state, this particular dispensary can get away with charging an arm and a leg for their products.
One of the main reasons someone like Allie purchases marijuana on the black market instead of at a dispensary comes down to time and mileage. Would you rather drive an hour to get overpriced and overtaxed “legal” marijuana, or simply walk over to your buddy’s house and pick up an eighth of homegrown for $20?
What it boils down to is simple economics. If you can get it for less, why pay more? On top of being able to save time and money, there are plenty of other reasons to avoid the dispensaries and just get it from “that guy” you know.
Take my friend Boris for example. Boris has a wife, two kids and a high profile job that would terminate him immediately if they ever found out he smokes marijuana. In other words, he’s a teacher.
To keep his name off of Big Brother’s naughty list, Boris purchases his cannabis on the black market through a friend-of-a-friend that grows it for personal use. This way Boris never has to show his ID or provide any kind of paper trail connecting his name to the marijuana industry. Marijuana, as Boris described to me, is “the best way to relax and unwind after a long day of teaching half-awake and wholly disinterested kids.”
Whether you like the anonymity, savings or convenience the list of reasons to remain a “black market” client seems reasonable. If the grass is green on this side of the fence, what might the other side look like?
“Terpenes by Tony”
According to Allie, she gets her marijuana from a friend, whom we’ll call Tony, that grown tons of it. When I say tons, I literally mean tons.
You see, Tony is what’s known as a caregiver and therefore legally licensed to grow hundreds of plants and provide medicinal marijuana for hordes of clients and dispensaries throughout the state. Where a typical top-shelf eighth of marijuana might go for $30 to 50 in a dispensary before taxes, Tony only charges his customers $20. Since he grows all of the product himself, he doesn’t have a middleman to pay and can therefore charge less than your typical street dealer of olden days.
Tony was courteous enough to give me some details on what he pulls in during a typical week of his black market business dealings. Assuming his regular steady clientele of around 50 people purchase an eighth of marijuana per week at $20 each, he’s looking at $1,000 income each week. Conservatively, this number is significantly lower than what he actually makes, he tells me. Including the various dispensaries he does business with that number easily reaches upwards of $2,500-3,000 a week at peak production.
If you have wondered whether it still pays to sell marijuana on the black market, the answer is yes. Although the average price of the non-dispensary marijuana purchase has come down since legalization, Tony assures me that business is just as good as ever.
Since the start of marijuana legalization in Washington D.C. on February 26, there remains to be only four ways that citizens can get their hands on cannabis. As of today, and for the foreseeable future, recreational dispensaries are not one of them.
The people of the District can legally obtain marijuana through donors of legal age (the law allows up to one ounce to be shared without the exchange of money), by growing their own plants, a process that is not easy and takes a substantial amount of time and money, or they can apply to get their medical card through a doctor.
The main option for most people has become obtaining it through dealers on the marijuana black market. The legalization has led to an influx of people who had never been involved in buying pot off of street dealers before, but now feel more comfortable with the change in law.
As one government contractor who has a reliable dealer explained:
“The black market is the obvious choice. It’s awesome.”
This issue of legalization without a regulated, legal way to purchase cannabis has been seen before in 2013 throughout Colorado and the state of Washington. Citizens could legally consume and possess marijuana, but were unable to purchase it without a medical license.
Both states reported a dramatic increase in adult cannabis consumption during that time (or at least an increase in adults willing to admit it), a trend that seems to be continuing in D.C. as they deal with the issue of legalizing possession without retailers from which to purchase it.
Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), spoke on the black market problem that Washington D.C. is currently dealing with,
“If you’re going to legalize marijuana, you also have to legalize the supply because you want to get rid of the black market or at least limit the black market. Right now, they’ve done the exact opposite.”
With no forthcoming changes to create a system of purchasing cannabis recreationally, the law is fueling the black market. As one D.C. dealer put it:
“It’s the dealer-protection act of 2015. This was a license for me to print money.”
Until dispensaries for recreational cannabis purchase are created, the black market will continue to be the main source of obtaining marijuana for the people of Washington D.C.