Legal Marijuana Shortages Drive Consumers to the Black Market

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If we’ve learned one thing from watching the marijuana markets open up in Colorado and Washington, it’s that the general public has waited a long time for the chance to buy cannabis in a straightforward manner, and that demand has far outweighed supply in the early going. While it shouldn’t really be surprising, both states have had struggles with keeping their shops adequately supplied, and stores in Washington, less than two months after opening to the public, have barely been able to keep their doors open. The process of legalizing a largely underground industry didn’t have a blueprint for regulators to follow.

For states that are looking to end prohibition in their own jurisdictions, taking note of where Washington and Colorado fell short will be of paramount importance. Where they fell short is in estimating how much demand for cannabis there truly is.

Due to the fact that legal stores have not been able to adequately supply customers, some looking to purchase product have been forced to go to other places, namely the black market. Now that marijuana has been decriminalized, it is still not legal for it to be sold outside of licensed stores. By forcing customers back to the black market, states are not only costing themselves potential tax revenue but also causing a large number of individuals to turn to illegal activity that would otherwise be avoided.

Colorado and Washington’s laws are set up differently, and so far, Colorado’s method has been implemented a bit more smoothly. In Washington, those involved in the new industry are labeled as either producers, processors or retailers. It’s possible for producers to also be classified as processors, but either way, there are limits on how much product can be produced and who can actually produce it.

This has been one factor in the shortage — in Washington, at least. But Colorado hasn’t been spared, either.