Is it morally wrong to buy black market cannabis?

Published Jan 7, 2021 12:00 p.m. ET
iStock / marekuliasz

Black market cannabis is giving the regulated market a run for its money. This has raised some questions about the reasoning behind the average consumer's decision to steer more towards these unlicensed retail stores. We know that cost is a huge factor, which is why legitimate stores and producers have done everything possible to stay competitive there. We also know that a driving factor is accessibility. Still, now that the regulated industry has openly pleaded for public support out of desperation, many are wondering if it's morally wrong for consumers to spend their cash with black market vendors.

Is it illegal?

One thing that needs to be considered is the legality of the issue, and it is completely illegal to purchase cannabis from an unlicensed dispensary. Though most might assume that the retail store's owner is the one who assumes all liability, those who are found in the middle of one of these transactions can face huge fines. For some people, this fact alone supports the black market morally wrong, but if the law were completely just, we wouldn't only now be celebrating the ability to use cannabis.

The difference between legality and morality

All different types of things that we consider normal, like alcohol or cannabis, have been outlawed at one point or another. Mainly due to government officials' bold claims that partaking in such things was enough to make someone a criminal in other ways. We know now that morally, locking thousands of people up for a harmless drug was wrong, and yet legally, it was the correct thing to do. A surprising number of people have trouble differentiating between what's allowed by law and what should otherwise be encouraged

Who are black market vendors?

Black market vendors are mothers, fathers, sons, brothers, and people from our communities. Sure, they're selling cannabis in an unregulated market, which is against the law. Still, many experts point towards numerous barriers in their way if they wanted to enter the legal side of things as the main reason for their decision. The majority want to run legal businesses. They just, for some reason or another, can't get approved for a license to do so. Does this make them criminals? Some might say that it does, but others know that it's merely a symptom of a much bigger problem.

The good reasons for a regulated market

Numerous consumers were excited to have a regulated market, and not because the government would suddenly be able to tell them what to do. They were happy because most just want access to clean, safe, reliable products that aren't tainted by harmful fertilizers or other contaminants that are common when cannabis plants are cultivated and processed at the hands of beginners and those who cut corners. It was supposed to mean safety, consistency, and a better level of control for the consumer, but this didn't turn out to be the case at all.

The results of too much control

A highly regulated market should theoretically be safer, and the truth is that we've seen very little cause for concern from within the legal industry where our health is concerned. Still, such strict rules also make it more difficult for processors and creators to bring hot new products onto the market. This is a large part of why licensed dispensaries have such few options when compared to black-market vendors, a downside that is incredibly unappealing to cannabis enthusiasts.


Why so many chose to support the black market

There are a few specific reasons why so many consumers chose to shop through black-market retailers, including:

  • A lower cost

  • A wider variety of products

  • More potent products

  • Better accessibility

If consumers were getting all of these things from the regulated market as they should, they would not need unlicensed vendors. In the meantime, these few benefits alone make it impossible for many to make any other choice.

Now, it's time for you to decide

Legal players have done everything right. They've followed all of the rules and processes and brought us the consumers a high-quality product that we can depend on, but they've fallen short in many places due to the very same regulations that were meant to benefit both them and us. It's unfortunate, but at this point, it's not a matter of moral preferences or right and wrong. This is a decision that is often made out of necessity, and if we want to change the way people are doing things, we need to give them all they need when they visit properly licensed facilities.

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