Legal Marijuana States Struggle To Keep Drug Off Black Market

By Victoria Kim 08/16/17

Officials from states where marijuana has been legalized are trying desperately to keep the drug from crossing state lines.

Image: 
hands exchanging a baggie of marijuana for cash

The growing legal marijuana market in states like Colorado and Oregon is seeping into surrounding states. It’s a concern for state officials like Doug Peterson, the anti-marijuana Nebraska Attorney General who filed a lawsuit against Colorado in an effort to push back on voters’ decision to legalize for recreational use there.

A black market for marijuana still exists despite the fact that it’s legal for recreational use in eight states and the District of Columbia. This year, 62 people and 12 businesses were indicted by a Denver grand jury for trafficking bulk shipments of cannabis across state lines to Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Ohio and Oklahoma—an operation that authorities say netted $200,000 per month.

In response, state officials are taking on the impossible task of trying to keep legal marijuana from leaving the state. 

Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed legislation aiming to prevent the “diversion” of legal marijuana, by requiring state regulators to track cannabis grown in Oregon from “seed to store,” according to the AP.

Tracking systems are already in place in Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska, but Oregon officials are hoping to improve and expand on it with a “highly secure, reliable, scalable and flexible system.” 

According to a report by Oregon State Police, state growers are producing more cannabis than Oregonians could handle—between 132 tons to 900 tons more. The report says a significant amount of cannabis—three to five times the amount that is consumed by Oregonians—ends up elsewhere.

Trying to contain and control the diversion of legal marijuana is futile, at best. As USA Today noted, 205 million Americans now live in a state where cannabis is legal in some form—especially now that California is gearing up to kick off its own recreational market in January 2018.

Fervently anti-marijuana individuals like Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson so far haven’t had much luck with efforts to fight the growth of legal markets in neighboring states. 

Nebraska and Oklahoma sued Colorado in 2014, claiming the state did not have the authority to establish “its own policy that is directly counter to federal policy against trafficking in controlled substances” and that by legalizing cannabis it “created a dangerous gap in the federal drug system.” The Supreme Court dismissed the case last year. 

Cannabis, which is legal for medical use in 29 states and D.C., remains listed in the federal government’s most dangerous drugs category, Schedule I, alongside heroin.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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