Yes, illegal grows continue despite the constant, strong progress of decriminalization, medical legalization, and recreational legalization across the country. Some people just can’t wait, whether they want to grow cannabis for friends or family members with illnesses that it can help, or purely for profit. Illegal cannabis, of course, generally nets a higher price point than legal cannabis, although the benefits of a well-controlled and healthy grow that was created just for certain symptoms, illnesses, or health and recreational outcomes is beginning to edge out a crop grown in someone’s basement. As these illegal grows continue to occur, particularly (obviously) in states where cannabis still remains illegal or growers can be penalized heavily, how are the legal growers in the same state and other states affected? Are the illegal growers perpetuating negative concepts about cannabis, and are they affecting the progress of legalization and decriminalization all over the country? Let’s take a look at the facts and find out.
Where is Cannabis Legal?
In case you missed the last election, cannabis has now become more legal in eight states (Nevada, California, Massachusetts, Maine, Florida, Montana, North Dakota, and Arkansas); add that to the previous medically and recreationally legal states, and you have a majority of the U.S. that has made cannabis more accessible to medical patients and people for recreational use. Cannabis is being studied by the U.S. government (again), medical doctors and organizations, and families are experimenting with its use to help previously untreatable conditions like CTE in professional football players, severe epilepsy in children, Alzheimer’s disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Why Are People Still Growing Cannabis Illegally?
There are a few viable reasons that people may still be growing cannabis illegally, even in a mostly legal country. First, if you have an illegal grow in a legal state, there may be less likelihood that you will get caught – but not much. All it takes to determine whether a grow is legal or not is to check with that state’s cannabis registry department and check for the address or the names of the people involved. While it might take a few days to get this information (and probably not even that), the growers aren’t going to be in operation long if someone starts checking up on them. Second, growing legal cannabis in legal states and then transporting and selling it in states where it is still illegal happens. (We’d be lying to ourselves if we didn’t admit that.) The goal, of course, is to prevent this from happening by legalizing cannabis in all fifty states. Another reason that people are growing cannabis illegally is because they can. That’s right, they can hide the grows, harvest and transport the cannabis out of state, and then reap the benefits of black market prices. At least until they get caught. By growing illegally, they bypass the exorbitant startup and operating expenses that are getting further and further out of reach for the average cannabis business owner. Speaking of prices, let’s examine how black market pricing affects legal cannabis growers and the cannabis business overall, shall we?
Denver vs. Georgia: A Cannabis Price Comparison
The point of this whole exercise is to give you a basic comparison of what cannabis prices are like in Colorado versus, say, Georgia, where medical marijuana is technically legal but the only way to get it is to illegally bring it across state lines. In Denver, Colorado, Price of Weed states that high quality marijuana costs about $241.74 per ounce based on 3,908 consumers. In Atlanta, Price of Weed puts the price of an ounce at $320.88, based on 1,589 samples. So – an ounce of marijuana in Denver costs an average of about $80 less than one in Atlanta, Georgia. If you’re talking about an entire grow, you can see where the large profits come in, here.
How Can Illegal Grows Affect Legal Growers?
This is basically a lesson in economics – in states where cannabis is still illegal, the prices for it are higher. This is drug dealing 101, and if you remember that econ course in college, you may have already realized that growers who sell their cannabis illegally can fetch a much higher price than growers who sell in a saturated cannabis market like Colorado, Washington, or Oregon, for instance. In cases like this, I like to refer to my handy dandy Price of Weed website, which is not always totally reliable, but at least someone’s posting this information. After all, no one likes to get scammed buying marijuana, right? I have to admit, Price of Weed’s execution is prettier than the older Marijuana Travels’ website, but they both work the same – you simply enter the city you live in (in the U.S., Canada, Europe, or Australia) and you’re off to the races. Both sites rely on the general public to tell them what they are paying for cannabis at any given time in any given place. Check out your city and see if you’re paying too much.
Violence & Illegal Marijuana Grows
Illegal grows can also lead to more violence in communities where they are established, and even tragic happenings like human trafficking, child labor, murder, and a generally bad name for the marijuana industry in general. After all, if you already believe that cannabis in your community is a bad thing, illegal grows and the criminal element that may come with them will only reinforce this idea. In California, news sources reported that the Eureka police department and communities in Los Angeles like Wilmington were dealing with too many illegal growers and dispensaries to handle over the past year.
The Environment and Illegal Marijuana Grows
In Humboldt and other northern California areas, illegal grows are destroying the environment as the criminals take down state-protected redwood trees and cause unhealthy algae blooms in water due to overfertilization. There is a land rush on in Humboldt County and the other counties that make up California’s Emerald Triangle; there may not be any land left when it’s over in one of the most beautiful places in the state of California. Migrant workers from Guatemala were shot and killed last year when they were unable to meet the boss’ requirements. Tragedies like this don’t happen at legal, regulated cannabis grows; at legal grows there are regulations to prevent violence, mistreatment of employees, illegal transportation of cannabis across state lines, and using unsafe pesticides to grow cannabis. The legal cannabis industry isn’t perfect – but what industry is? We learn as we go, but one thing we learned from marijuana prohibition is that violence begets violence, and making a plant illegal does not prevent its abuse or existence. Making it legal doesn’t, either, but it does help a lot.
The truth is, illegal grow operations perpetuate the violence, the maltreatment of employees, the destruction of the environment, and the black market prices that everyone against cannabis is truly afraid of. Illegal cannabis growers refuse to follow the new regulations, even as those regulations allow for more people to get access to cannabis for medical treatments or responsible recreational use. But that’s not what illegal growers are worried about; all they’re worried about is making a quick buck.