California Black Market Cannabis (or the grey market for that matter) is booming despite legal cannabis being available in the state. Why is California Black Market Cannabis thriving? Simple. Most of California is a Pot Desert.

What? How can that be? California allows counties and cities within counties to make local cannabis policies, and, because of this, most of California restrict dispensaries in their communities. So, without a local dispensary, how does a legal consumer get legal cannabis?

Delivery Services

Only via cannabis delivery services. And, if you live outside of a delivery service zone, what do you do then? Well, you’ll either have to travel to where you can get legal weed or you’ll have to reach out to the grey market and get it from the guy you’ve known for years.

Grey Market versus Black Market

Gray market is a label applied to cannabis outlets behaving and advertising themselves as legal businesses with only some or none of the required business certifications legally required to sell cannabis. Gray Market operations may possess a legal state business license and even rent and pay taxes for a physical storefront, but they are still strictly illegal operations because they don’t follow their jurisdictional regulation on the sale of cannabis.

Another example of the grey market is when someone buys pot from another person who is growing for personal use. Anyone in California can grow up to six mature cannabis plants. Some of the people who grow for personal use are very good growers and, in many cases, their six plants produce many pounds of weed, far more than they will personally consume.

When a ‘personal use’ grower sells cannabis to someone, that is a grey market transaction and it supports the illegal cannabis industry.

Grey vs. Black

So, what’s the difference between grey market cannabis and black market cannabis? Black market cannabis is often grown in old-style “guerilla grows” where the growers are squatting on someone else’s land (or on the State or Federal Government’s land) and their intention is purely economic. They’re growing for money and have no regard for how they treat the land or what the put on the plants to get them from seedling to harvest.

One other common characteristic of black market grows is the growers are criminals; in some cases gangs and in some cases cartels. Regardless, some sound advice is: don’t buy black market weed.

Back to the Black Market Dispensary

Another characteristic of a black market dispensary is the way they source their products. While it might be packaged appropriately and look legitimate, the product itself was (most likely) not produced with the “track and trace” system and this means the cannabis was not tested throughout it’s grow cycle for trace residues of chemicals, pesticides and other impurities (e.g., mold).

Again, we fall back to: don’t buy black market weed.

Black Market Cannabis Bad, Grey Market Cannabis LESS Bad?

Local laws allow cities and counties to outlaw cannabis sales (and commercial production) or limit how those business can operate. Because of this, huge parts of California are “dry” and getting legal weed just isn’t practical.

This is why no other state which has recreational cannabis is experiencing the same black market cannabis issues California has.

Part of the issue is the way businesses can operate online – it’s impossible to distinguish legitimate cannabis retailers from black market operators online. One observation about this is: most grey market operations DON’T advertise online.

Where Is the Grey Market?

Less than 25 percent of the Golden State’s cities allow legal sales. So, everything else is either black or grey market. But, if the grey market doesn’t advertise, where IS it?

Rewind 10 years – the grey market is the guy you went to when you wanted to buy some cannabis. Typically THIS cannabis was being grown for medical purposes and your ‘retailer’ had access to inventory (or was the grower) and was “slinging” some bags on the side.

These guys didn’t advertise then and they don’t do it now, but, they’re still part of the grey market. So, you either know a guy, or you know someone who knows a gal or you still have your buddies from ‘back in the day’ and they’re still doing what they do best.

In any case, the grey market is the market where you gotta know someone to get in. And, from the point of view of the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the grey and black markets are indistinguishable from each other.

What is California Going to Do?

2020 is the year the California Bureau of Cannabis Control has increased it’s enforce budget specifically to deal with black market cannabis dispensaries and growing operations. What impact it will have remains to be seen.

It turns out, as much as 80% (!) of cannabis sold in California has come from the black market, with an estimated value of $3.7 billion in 2019. That is four times the value of the legal cannabis market and illustrates the magnitude of California’s black market cannabis problem.

To learn more about the Legal Cannabis Market, Book a Cannabis Dispensary Tour with Happy Travelers Tours!