What stands in the way of black-market vendors who want to go legal

Published Jul 24, 2020 12:00 p.m. ET
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Now that cannabis has been elevated to a more acceptable level within society, people in most countries can access an entirely legal market without fear of repercussions. It’s an exciting time to be alive, while the world sits on the precipice of a brand-new reality with the introduction of a whole new market that needs to be built from the ground up.

Of course, many consumers are under the impression that we’ve already got a pretty good handle on things, as swaths of new strains and cannabis products seem to be released on the legal market every single week, but we still have a long way to go if we want to include those who spent their entire lives advocating for this change that so many of us are already taking for granted.

The black market is often talked about in a negative light by the media as if it is some sort of mediocre wannabe now that we have licensed producers and vendors, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, without the black market, we wouldn’t have any of the knowledge, strains, or cannabis products that we know and love today.

That is why it is important to acknowledge the many barriers that stand between black-market vendors making their way into the legal side of things because without them there would be no cannabis culture, no pride, few options, and the reality is that we likely wouldn’t have the opportunity to buy weed legally today in any form if it wasn’t for all their hard work and dedication.

1. A criminal record that is hard to shake

Black market vendors and producers that are successful in this day and age also tend to carry with them a long line of criminal charges which are recorded and used against them when they attempt to open up legal businesses. Though some regions do allow for minor criminal charges to be wiped from permanent records, those that do force a long and arduous process that many black-market vendors can’t qualify for, because selling illicit drugs is not considered to be a minor crime, which is the only kind government seem to want to forgive.

2. A banning based on the past

As if a criminal record isn’t enough of a weight to pull people even further away from any opportunity to enter the legal side of things, some regions have chosen to discriminate based on the past of any black-market vendor. This means that even if they managed to get by through life without a criminal record, if they have any known association with an illegal dispensary or producers, then they are banned from obtaining a proper license to be part of the industry legally.

3. Lack of money

When you have no money, it’s impossible to pull off any big feat, and in most countries, large businesses and corporations have dominated the market with chain stores that boast highly sensationalized names. Though most successful black-market dealers and producers don’t struggle with money problems, the majority have very little to spare into a big, legitimate business endeavor because they compensate their employees fairly and charge lower prices than licensed establishments.

4. An unfair licensing system

Every region implements its own set of rules and regulations that any eager cannabis-loving entrepreneur must go through in order to be properly licensed, and the way that they do so is all over the place. Some chose to instill a lottery system that required far more money than any average cannabis enthusiasts might have on hand alongside stellar credit and bank promises, and others simply set up costly processes with limited slots that were almost immediately eaten up by large corporations.

5. The stigma

The black-market producers and vendors that could somehow manage to slide past the first four barriers on this list are continually followed around by a stigma that doesn't seem to be fading anytime soon. The thought is that black market participants are no more than regular drugs with little to no business sense, but if that were true, then they wouldn’t be dominating the market pretty much everywhere in the world.

Regardless, the stigma gets in the way of things like securing a building, working out business partnerships and getting access to the same opportunities that business people with no real-world experience within the cannabis industry use to climb their way up the ladder, and the sheer fact that they sold pot without a license is enough to cost them all of that along with glaring accusations from the media, corporations, and the government.

No matter what, the deck is stacked against black-market participants, so the next time that you question the motivations behind why your local black market cannabis store isn’t licensed or running legally, you’ll know that in many cases, the lack of transition is at no fault of their own. The world is just pitted against them joining the ranks of legal professionals, and until that happens, there will likely always be a thriving black market.

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