You’d be forgiven for thinking that the mass-legalization of cannabis across the United States would more or less put an end to illicit sales. For decades, the black market has thrived on the fact that the only way people have been able to access weed is via illegal street sales. It was a case of choosing between the black market and its dodgy deals or going without – the latter not being a viable option for millions.
So, when legalization efforts started to hit their stride, it was predicted that many (if not most) black market operators would be driven off the streets entirely. From White Widow to Trainwreck to all the edibles you could ever eat, they’re all right there on your doorstep and 100% legal.
Unfortunately, the latest figures suggest that this simply isn’t the case at all.
Quite the contrary, as approximately $60 billion is still going directly into the pockets of those operating in the criminal underworld.
When Legalization Isn’t All That Liberal
As things stand right now, it’s estimated that approximately 15% of all American adults use cannabis. When you consider the size of the United States and its population, that’s a hell of a lot of cannabis users. It equates to way more than one in 10 of all adults identifying as cannabis users, who in most instances couldn’t be happier with the progress being made towards legalization.
But here’s the thing – out of the ridiculous amounts of money being spent on cannabis each year, the overwhelming majority still heads straight to the black market. In fact, it’s estimated that at least 70% of all cannabis spending across the board in North America remains illegal.
As for why, it’s a case of cannabis prohibition to a certain extent still perpetuating across a full 39 states. Or in other words, cannabis in various forms is still prohibited to one extent or another across the vast majority of North America.
Not quite as liberal as it seems, therefore.
A Woeful Waste of Tax Dollars
By examining the specifics, it’s estimated that the North American cannabis black market is currently worth approximately $60 billion per year. This towers over the $23 billion total annual value of the legal cannabis market, which encompasses both recreational and medical sales.
Where cannabis remains difficult or impossible to get hold of legally, the black market is booming. Where there’s a will, there’s a way – and it’s not going to change anytime soon.
Take Texas, for example. Here’s a state notorious for its ridiculously OTT punishments handed out for even the most remedial of cannabis offences. Nevertheless, Texas currently accounts for a whopping 7% of all the legal sales of cannabis in the whole of North America. A total black market value of approximately $4.2 billion per year.
To put this into some kind of context, that’s triple the value of the entire legal cannabis market of Colorado.
It’s a sorry state of affairs to say the least, though gets even more tragic when you consider what’s being sacrificed for no good reason. Experts estimate that if the black market was to be put out of business by way of sensible nationwide legislation, it would create a minimum of 600,000 new jobs for Americans.
It would also generate a minimum of $6 billion in additional tax revenues, every single year.
So while it may look as if the US is becoming the world’s most liberal nation where weed legalization is concerned, things aren’t currently quite as liberal as they seem. And for the time being at least, no one in the US is getting richer from cannabis sales and distribution than the same criminals that have dominated the industry for decades.