“When the new marijuana shop opened up just down the street from his own marijuana shop, Greg Meguerian, owner of The Refinery in Los Angeles, kept an eye on it. When that shop stayed open past the legal closing time of 10 p.m. and sold customers over a quarter-pound of cannabis at once, four times more than the legal limit, Meguerian knew he wasn’t competing with a licensed dispensary.
The 15 Spot—as the tarp sign hung in front says doesn’t appear on Los Angeles’ list of authorized retail businesses. Meguerian and his lawyer reported the dispensary, but it’s still open—and Meguerian is paying a price. He said his sales are down noticeably since his illicit competitor moved in. Calls to the 15 Spot went unanswered because its phone is disconnected.
“I told the state, ‘If I lose 20 percent, you just lost 20 percent in taxes,’” he told POLITICO Magazine. “You feel like your words are falling on deaf ears.”
Though each state has its own issues, the problems have similar outlines: Underfunded law enforcement officers and slow-moving regulators are having trouble building a legal regime fast enough to contain a high-demand product that already has a large existing criminal network to supply it. And at the national level, advocates also point to another, even bigger structural issue: Problems are inevitable in a nation where legalization is so piecemeal.
“You’re never going to eliminate [the illicit market] until most of the states are legal,” says Adam Smith of the Craft Cannabis Alliance, a group in Oregon advocating for small cannabis farmers. “As long as half the country still can’t get it legally, there’s a market for it illegally.”
With Oregon growers producing three times more marijuana than consumers inside the state can handle, neighboring Idaho has reported a 665 percent increase in the number of illicit marijuana officers has seized. In 2016, the year before Oregon’s adult-use laws took effect, troopers confiscated 508 pounds of marijuana. Oregon’s new recreational market went into full effect on January 1, 2017, and the number of licensed dispensaries jumped from 99 to 260. That same year, the amount of cannabis confiscated by Idaho state troopers skyrocketed to 1,376 pounds and kept climbing. Last year, seizures totaled nearly a ton.
Read the full article at Politico