There is still a big marijuana illegal market in the United States. It is not expected that the black market would be gone by now, there are a lot of states that have not even legalized medical marijuana so there could be nothing but a black market in those states. It could be expected though that with over half the country having legalized medical marijuana that a big dent could have been put into the illegal market. Unfortunately, that is not the case and it seems more and more the culprit is legal cannabis home cultivation.
California has a lot of illegal growers, but states like Colorado and Washington seem to be the source of a lot of the illegal marijuana crossing state lines and it is coming from a legal source. Cannabis home cultivation is permitted in quite a few states, but legally home grown marijuana becomes illegal as soon as it is sold to someone, and it becomes really illegal when it crosses state lines to be sold. If cannabis home cultivation is going to continue to be allowed, then home cultivators need to adhere to the law.
Long before tourists started converging here to sample freshly legalized marijuana in the form of gummy bears and chocolate brownies, thousands of Coloradans were cultivating the medicinal plants for their own consumption and to share with ailing friends.
Now that the Trump administration is pledging to closely monitor states where the federally outlawed substance has been legalized, regulators here, and in Oregon and Washington, are trying to tame what has proven to be an unruly crop of home growers.
The biggest concern is that outsized home growers may be selling their produce across state lines.
In all three states, homegrown medical marijuana was decriminalized at least a decade before the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana sales. The relatively loose rules governing homegrown medical marijuana are now considered at odds with highly regulated commercial markets for medicinal and recreational products.
For regulators and enforcers, the scale of some home growing operations has been a problem for years. Under antiquated rules, growers could cultivate hundreds of marijuana plants in one residence, depending on how many certified marijuana patients designated them as their grower. And while some states kept a database of medical marijuana users, little information was collected on the growers that served them.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington legalized homegrown marijuana for medical purposes, allowing people to either grow it themselves or buy it at cost from a caretaker or co-op.
With the state’s blessing, patients either smoked marijuana or ingested extracts of the plant to relieve the nausea associated with cancer treatment, to calm involuntary muscular spasms, and to treat inflammation, seizures, nervous system disorders, glaucoma and chronic pain, among many other ailments.
When it was the only medical marijuana available, states were reluctant to limit home growers’ crop yields. And regulators deferred to doctors in allowing whatever quantity of the drug was deemed necessary for medical purposes.
The only limits on production were the ones home growers placed on themselves, because they feared federal mandatory minimum sentences for having a hundred or more plants.
In my view, states should not permit home grow. It’s simply not good policy. It interferes with the creation of a legal market and interferes with states’ ability to regulate it. Even if the law says I can only grow six plants at home, it’s unenforceable. Police can’t knock on the door and say, ‘We need to inspect your home.’
While most medical marijuana home growers have adhered to state laws, some have exploited the laws for profit, said Lewis Koski, a Colorado-based government consultant who previously ran Colorado’s marijuana enforcement agency.
In all three states, rental homes have been destroyed by mold from massive indoor cultivations, neighbors have complained of fumes, and state and federal law enforcement officials have seized large quantities of marijuana from criminal drug dealers operating under the guise of medical home growers.
To crack down on Colorado’s so-called gray market growers, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a law in June to end what he called the state’s “Wild West” home growing policies.