Legislation & Lobbying

Despite legalization, black-market marijuana activities continue in Colorado


It’s now legal to purchase and possess up to an ounce of marijuana in Colorado, under state law.

But that doesn’t mean the days of black-market growing and dealing of pot are over, the Associated Press reports.

There’s still demand in other states for illegal marijuana grown in Colorado, and even within the state some buyers would prefer to pay $200 to $280 on the street for an ounce rather than $400 at a state-approved store. (Taxes account for the cost differential at retailers.) And while those who live in major cities are likely to have a legal supplier at hand, marijuana from an authorized dealer may be hard to find in more isolated areas.

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While some observers predict that existing illegal sellers will continue to ply their pot trade, others say many buyers would rather follow the rules, once the situation stabilizes, and predict that the black market will eventually largely disappear.

Attorney Robert Corry of Denver, who helped write the law legalizing marijuana sales in the state, says his criminal defense practice representing pot dealers shows no sign of abating, the AP article reports. The “barriers to entry” represented by the need to get licensing and comply with complex regulations “already create the potential for the black market,” he says. “And then you add these taxes on top of it, and it makes it impossible to get rid of.”

However, professor Mark Kleiman of the University of California, Los Angeles is more hopeful. He is helping Washington state develop its own legal marijuana market.

“When there are more stores and more products in the stores and prices settle down, then we’ll see,”said Kleiman of the Colorado situation. “I would be very surprised if the illicit market can compete at all.”

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