Legalized marijuana is causing a headache for law enforcement agencies who have seen an increase in the number of smugglers shipping illicit cannabis across the United States.
Green Wave Advisors, a consulting firm focused on cannabis, says legal sales of marijuana were 16% of total cannabis sales in 2016.
According to USA Today, cannabis starts off in states where it’s legal, such as Colorado, then makes its way through America via post. It can be driven across state borders or even flown from state-to-state.
Colorado prosecutors revealed in June that they caught a 74-person drug factory producing 100 pounds of marijuana each month. Law enforcement estimated the gang generated more than $200,000 per month, tax free, over four years.
In total, police found two tons of cannabis in homes and warehouses in the Denver area. Professional football players, fathers and sons, as well as professionals were all caught up in the illegal money-making scheme.
“Those of us in law enforcement kept saying, ‘(Legalization) will not stop crime. You’re just making it easier for people who want to make money. What we’ve done is given them cover,” Cynthia Coffman, Colorado Attorney General, stated.
According to official figures there are now some 65 million Americans living in states where marijuana is legal. However, cannabis is still illegal in many states and smugglers are taking advantage of that to increase prices, sometimes by as much as four-times.
Experts claim that legalizing marijuana has made the logistics of drug trafficking easier for cartels. If caught they will only face misdemeanor penalties in most states, and there are now no issues with getting the drug by border security.
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Meanwhile, Oregon State Police estimate that the legal marijuana market consists of just 30%, while the rest is generated on the black market.
In 2016, attorney generals in Oklahoma and Nebraska filed a lawsuit against Colorado for weed smugglers caught in their jurisdiction and for clogging up jails. The US Supreme Court declined to hear the lawsuit, and prompted many to suggest that it was proof that legalization would create more criminal activity.
Green Wave Advisors, a consulting firm focused on cannabis, says legal sales of marijuana were 16% of total cannabis sales in 2016. In 2018, the firm predicts legal sales will increase to 33% of the market, and by 2020 legal sales are expected to surpass black-market sales.
Legalization advocates say that the black market only exists because some states still deem marijuana illegal. They believe if we make it legal everywhere you will eliminate the need for a black market.
Legalized marijuana is big business. Colorado saw more than $1 billion worth of marijuana sold in state-regulated and taxed stores in 2016, and this number is set to increase per-year.
Law enforcers are pumping some of the revenues made from this new income into monitoring and eliminating the black market. The only issue is that black market marijuana is cheaper than the legal kind because it is exempt from taxes. However, some critics claim that once the legal market becomes bigger the prices will come down.