One of the biggest benefits of cannabis legalization is the supposed end to the black market. After all, if legal, regulated pot shops are on block, what need is there for back-alley dealers? Well, according to a new report from the Cannabis Consumers Coalition, that might not yet be the case.
In a survey of daily cannabis users, less than 12% of respondents said they purchase their cannabis from a recreational dispensary. 23% said they cop at medical dispensaries, around 14% said they grow their own and less than 5% rely on independent caregivers. That leaves a whopping 45% who said they still buy their daily bud from black market dealers.
73% of survey-takers reported living in states with some form of legal weed, but the plethora of states with extremely limited medical programs or recreational legalization without a set retail system could speak to the high rates of black market loyalty. For Larisa Bolivar, the executive director of the Cannabis Consumers Coalition, there are a host of factors that lead consumers to stick with their ziploc baggie dealer instead of heading to pot shops.
"There could be a multitude of reasons for this, including price gaps between 'street' and regulated cannabis, which can be attributed to taxes and regulatory costs making cannabis from licensed stores more expensive than cannabis on the black market," Bolivar wrote in her report on the study. "Other reasons for black-market activity can be attributed to prohibition in surrounding states and municipalities and slow adaptation of regulations and business ramp-up time."
The survey looked specifically at daily users, so it’s also possible that more sporadic smokers are visiting legal pot shops in droves. Even without the black market buyers in the CCC survey dispensaries on the medical and recreational side of regulation are already bringing in billions in collective sales.
Whatever the reason, the survey certainly suggests that there’s still a huge amount of room for growth in America’s budding cannabis industry.