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.