One of the expected benefits of marijuana legalization was that it would curtail the black market. Unfortunately, things aren’t going to plan. In an article from Associated Press and Los Angeles News Daily, marijuana-legal states are now looking to strengthen their efforts toward killing the black market, as continued pot trafficking is putting America’s growing multibillion-dollar industry at risk.
In June, Colorado prosecutors said they busted a 74-person operation that had been producing 100 pounds of marijuana per month. This was enough to generate $200,000 every month for more than four years. How does this kind of thing happen in a marijuana-legal state? Because there are huge loopholes in the fledgling system. Currently, states’ systems of tracking legal weed from fields and greenhouses to shops are profoundly lax operations despite being the market’s primary protective measure against black market sales. “The tracking system is the most important tool a state has,” said Michael Crabtree, who helps collectors track cash-heavy industries like marijuana. “But the systems aren’t foolproof. They rely on the user’s honesty. We have seen numerous examples of people ‘forgetting’ to tag plants.”
In California, voters approved using a tracking system that utilizes barcode and radio frequency identification labels on packaging and plants. Similar systems are being used in Colorado, Oregon, Maryland, Alaska and Michigan. In Washington, the State Liquor and Cannabis Board took note of the system’s notable gaps and announced it will replace its current tracking system this November with one that is more secure, reliable and scalable.
In order to implement a fully operational legal market in the United States, California Senator Mike McGuire, whose region produces 60 percent of America’s marijuana, predicts it will take years to execute a fool-proof tracking system correctly. However, he is confident government technology is headed in the right direction. Twenty-four months from now, McGuire believes the industry will have a “good idea” of who is in the legal market and who isn’t.
Of course, Donald Trump’s administration could thwart these advancements, with Jeff Sessions heading the Department of Justice. According to the Associated Press, a U.S. Justice Department task force recently mentioned that the Cole Memorandum, which restricts federal marijuana law enforcement in states where weed is legal, should be reevaluated. In April, governors from Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Alaska wrote to Sessions warning that a reevaluation of the law “would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”
Sessions’s response? The anti-weed warrior criticized the federal government’s “hands-off approach” to medical marijuana. Sessions also opposed an amendment by Oregon Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer and California Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher that would prevent the Justice Department from interfering with states’ medical marijuana growers. Congress will weigh the amendment next month as part of an appropriations bill for the next fiscal year.
Blumenauer says Sessions is “out of step” with most members of Congress whom who have come to support ending the war on marijuana. It’s tough to despute why marijuana shouldn’t be legalized, especially when the U.S. Border Patrol cited seizures have dropped by almost half since 2011 due to more progressive laws regarding the substance. For a similar trend to occur within state borders, nationwide legalization may be the answer, and it’s something U.S. Senator Cory Booker wants to do. The 48-year-old introduced a bill to Congress on August 1 to legalize marijuana across America.