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The Cannabis Black Market: What is the black market and How to Avoid it

Longtime users of cannabis need not look too far back in their lives at the time when marijuana was illegal and, consequently, only available to users through the black market. In fact, in the few states where cannabis is not yet legal (for either medical or recreational purposes), the black market still thrives and remains the only avenue for acquisition. 


Surprisingly, the states where cannabis products are legal still have black markets operating. The burning question is, “Why is there still a cannabis black market when users can obtain it legally and without breaking the law?”

Why Black Markets Emerge

The term “black market” was first used after World War I, when governments restricted the flow and trade of particular items (especially commodities and goods considered luxuries, like coffee, chocolate, stockings, and metals). While these items were available in limited supply, their scarcity makes them valuable to those who could afford to acquire them. Black markets are illegal trading operations run by sellers to desperate or demanding buyers.


Black markets originally emerged due to wars between countries or within borders. For instance, the American Civil War suffered severe losses of valuable goods, thus creating the opportunity for illegal traders to create fortunes thanks to the misfortunes and damages of war. The practice soon became popular for vending illegal products outside of war zones or periods. 


An example of a non-war black market arose during Prohibition in America when alcohol was outlawed, but the thirst for those libations did not diminish. While some good citizens roughed it and followed the law (perhaps grumbling all the while), many other law-abiding Americans ignored this moral law, feeling it did not apply to them.

The Cannabis Black Market

Cannabis has a long and interesting history, both as a medicine and as a relaxant. Historians believe that marijuana got its start in Asia around 500 BC as herbal medicine and possibly used in sacred rites. Burnt cannabis seeds were found from ancient shaman graves in China and Siberia. Even in America, cannabis plants were grown by early colonists who valued the hemp they produced. The hemp was used both for textiles and ropes, and in the early 17th century, the colonies representing Virginia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut require their farmers to grow this versatile plant.


American political and racial factors changed the attitude towards cannabis dramatically in the early 20th century. Leading to its criminalization in the United States and earning a classification as a Schedule I controlled substance. According to the DEA Museum, “cannabis currently has no accepted medical use in the United States and a high potential for abuse.” 


For much of the 20th century, cannabis remained an underground herb that was popular mainly among the poor populations. However, in the 1960s, the era of hippies, free loves, and anti-war protests, cannabis was rediscovered, not for its medical miracles, but for the recreational pleasures, it provided new generations of rebels.


One of the attractions was its anti-establishment appeal among young people. Many college students and young adults developed a preference for this plant over alcoholic consumption. The famed Reefer Madness film premiered in 1936; the original title “Tell Your Children” was renamed to increase audience shock value.


Without knowing how laws would change in the future, the concern of their parents, churches, local communities, and governments was frightened.


Consequently, cannabis thrived in the underground during the remainder of that century and even spilling over into the 21st century. Once in a while, a proposal to legalize cannabis surfaced, only to be immediately torpedoed by false and inaccurate rhetoric from politicians, religious institutions, and even the medical profession. Through this period of cannabis prohibition, the black market surged, grew, and solidified. For many experienced cannabis users, the dire warnings of early death, dementia, sexual deviation, and other fables quickly proved to be lies, while positive benefits were ignored or excluded from studies.

What Are the Risks of Buying From the Black Market?

Cannabis is now legal in more than half the American states, with the possibility of the Federal government changing its laws and classification concerning cannabis. Making cannabis federally legal throughout the nation leaves little reason why cannabis users should rely on the cannabis black-market for purchasing cannabis products. Black markets are inherently risky; users should be fully aware of the risks involved in purchasing cannabis through the black market in today’s climate.

It's Illegal

For those who are privileged enough to live in a state where cannabis can be legally purchased, you are breaking the law when you buy cannabis through the black market. Think of it as similar to buying booze produced from a backyard still; producing and distributing products that are not regulated and overseen by appropriate government agencies is illegal and even dangerous.


Imagine being arrested for purchasing cannabis when you could have entered a dispensary and bought it legally!

It's Unsafe

Breaking the law is bad enough, especially when you don’t need to! The even more dangerous question remains, “Do you even know what you are buying?” A legally-operated dispensary can tell you everything you need to know about the cannabis products you are purchasing. 

Dispensary Information Provided:


  • Where it was cultivated and harvested
  • The THC level of the product you are purchasing
  • The terpenes that can are in each strain
  • The expected effects you will experience upon usage


When buying through the black market, you usually don’t even know the strain of the cannabis product you are buying, nor are you informed of its effect and the level of THC it contains. Even worse, many cannabis by-products can be fake or diluted with fillers and other junk that can be harmful to your body. Consider the wave of black market vaping cartridges that have wreaked havoc on the health of Americans, especially younger users. When purchasing legitimately, your risk of acquiring a bad or unhealthy product disappears.

It's Unwise

Because it is both illegal and unsafe to buy cannabis through the black market, it is just not smart to buy cannabis through the black market. For one thing, if you are using cannabis for medical purposes, your legal purchases can be tax-deductible as a medical expense. That tax benefit disappears for cannabis if purchased in the black market. 


For another, avoiding legitimate cannabis outlets will cost you in the long run, both financially and healthwise. In addition to the uncertainty of the quality of cannabis you get through the black market, there are plenty of tales of outright ripoffs. Especially with specialty cannabis products, such as distillates, concentrates, and edibles, all kinds of unwelcome impurities can be included. Distillates especially can be problematic, as black marketeers have used vegetable oils as filler; when vaporized and inhaled, vegetable oil accumulates in the lungs, with the potential for serious breathing and other health issues in a short time.


While cannabis has unfairly received lots of bad press, when properly cultivated and converted to the many forms of cannabis that users can enjoy, cannabis has delivered both pleasure and relief to its many dedicated users. Just as you would not consider getting your next bottle of booze from a neighbor running a still in their backyard, do not consider buying cannabis from any black market source. It is neither safe nor wise, and there is no reason to break laws when you have better options.

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