Recreational marijuana became legal in California on January 1, 2018, but the illegal marijuana market (otherwise known as the black market) remains alive and well in the state. A study by Eaze discovered that in the last three months, 18 percent of California cannabis consumers bought cannabis products in the illicit marketplace. That works out to one in five individuals. The cannabis study covered 1,750 surveys from Colorado and California, as well as Eaze consumers.

Why are People Going the Illegal Route?

The news has been filled with California’s licensing and regulatory missteps. Applicants have had to wait (or are still waiting) for license approval and high taxes continually keep quite a lot of consumers from seeking out legal avenues of purchase. The illegal marijuana market has encouraged a vicious cycle – with 84% of individuals “highly likely” to continue buying illegally.

A Side of Pesticides to Go with Your Order?

Almost a quarter of the above consumer sector would even change their minds and go legal if a simple 5% tax reduction occurred. But there is more to the legal and illegal marijuana market than saving a few dollars. California officials recently announced that they discovered lethal pesticides in 90% of black market cannabis grows.

Integral Ecology Research Center tested cultivation sites raided in the past year. Researchers tested water, soil, as well as additional ecological samples. Their findings: “highly deadly toxic chemicals” were found in 89% of the tested samples.

As California continues to struggle with regulating, the black market thrives by using unregulated chemicals and whatever farming methods they desire – just to grow as much cannabis as they can. But efforts to curb the out of control growing have been somewhat successful. Over 640,000 plants, 25,000 pounds of processed bud, and over 60 tons of trash have been seized.

Stop the Illegal Marijuana Market, Save the Planet

California ecological experts are more concerned with the impact illegal marijuana grows are having on the state’s wildlife. Wide unregulated pesticide use has spiked exponentially. One pesticide in particular, carbofuran, is especially toxic – a mere quarter-teaspoon is enough to kill a 300-pound bear. And the clean-up process is not so swift either. The more contamination that is present, the longer clean-up crews must wait until the toxicity level diminishes.

Animals Suffer Too

Take the mountain lion population in California. Illegal grows spread further and further into the forest. According to UC Santa Cruz ecologist, Chris Wilmers, this pushes animals like mountain lions out of their habitat. Coupled with rodenticide (rat poison) use on the illegal grows, mountain lions get sick after eating rats who have ingested the poison. Generally, rodenticide use on cannabis farms is much lower in the legal sector.

The slow carving away of forest for illegal marijuana grows starts lower down the food chain and then moves its way up. Removing smaller vegetation takes away a food source for all of the other animals that live in the forest. Take these animals away and then the mountain lions of the area go hungry – and only consume those poisoned rats. And the devasting cycle continues.

Balancing the System

Cannabis cultivation need not be all or nothing. It is about managing the forest that the grows are in. If you disrupt nature’s well-honed ecosystem, don’t be surprised if it comes back to haunt you. Generating electricity to power rural cannabis farms can scare off hawks and owls. These two creatures are critical to properly controlling predators, like rats, gophers, and moles in the forest. If there aren’t other animals to eat them, many growers choose only one option: poisons.

But the poisons don’t just stay in the forest either. The poisons seep into the groundwater and make their way to public waterways and other sources. Or even better, some illegal growers build what they call, chemical fences. The problem is that they don’t actually prevent the poisons from leaving the property.

Remove the Money Incentive

Illegal grows are well, already illegal in California. So, the law and potential fines do little to dissuade growers. It is simply quite profitable to grow illegally on public lands. Then, since the individuals are already breaking the law, what is it to sell over state lines to Nevada? They can double and triple their profits.

High Tax Means Consumers Will Continue to Seek Illegal Highs

California has two taxes associated with its cannabis: a cultivation tax when cannabis enters the commercial market and a 15% excise tax when cannabis is purchased recreationally. This tax is in addition to any local and state taxes already in existence. After California legalized marijuana for recreational use, tax collection reached a much lower than predicted amount of $34 million in the first quarter. High tax continues to encourage the illegal marijuana market – which began long before the state legalized recreational cannabis. Efforts have been made to reduce the taxes in the state, but these measures have failed.

The Clean Up Continues

California authorities continue to clean up illegal sites throughout the state. The state has cleaned 160 of them. That leaves over 800 to still deal with. Some sites were discovered over eight years ago and are just now being assessed.

The California Market is Still Ripe for the Taking

Even though California recreational cannabis is struggling, the state is getting some guidance from those who have done it right. The illegal marijuana market is here to stay for the time being. Complete removal will require a variety of elemental changes – regulatory, ecological, and tax-based. Let Pinnacle Consultation help get you into the bustling legal market in the state. We’ll do the legwork and get your business going. Call us at (719) 330-5301 schedule a meeting today.