Marijuana Legalization: Looking Back at Pot’s Progress in 2017


Cultivating pot in Nevada.

The Market for Illegal Pot Isn’t Going Away Yet

The legalization across much of the United States and world has not eradicated the illegal market for cannabis. In California, illegal pot still accounts for roughly $5.7 billion in sales, or about three-quarters of the state’s overall sales of pot.

With the high taxes that the state will be charging on legal marijuana, which could jump to 45 percent when local taxes are taken into account, analysts believe that the market for unregulated marijuana will still be around for the foreseeable future.

And not just for in-state buyers. Because pot is not legal across the United States, pot smuggling across state lines is also a big business. According to one 2017 study by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the state produces 13.5 million pounds of marijuana annually, of which Californians are only consuming 2.5 million pounds. The rest is being exported for profit — which, in case you had any doubt, is definitely illegal.

Sen. Cory Booker speaks about legalizing marijuana at an event in DC. Advocates say that legalizing pot in the state is a racial justice issue. 

Increased Efforts for Racial Justice in Legal Pot Industry

While marijuana is becoming a big business in Washington D.C. and the 29 states where it’s legal, the vast majority of those cannabis businesses are still owned by white men.

Current laws that govern who can receive a dispensary license may have – no pun intended — racial bias baked into them, since drug felons are prohibited from operating pot businesses or, in some cases, even working for them as employees. Minorities are significantly more likely to face arrest for minor drug related offences. According to a 2013 American Civil Liberties Union report, a black person is nearly four times more likely than a white person to be arrested for possession of marijuana, even though the two groups use marijuana at similar rates.

Other barriers to entry include financial requirements. In some states, it can be as high as $1 million in holdings for a dispensary, marijuana entrepreneur Wanda James recently told the Washington Post. The former Navy pilot is one of the few black pot growers in the state of Colorado.

But organizations like the Minority Cannabis Business Association, founded in 2015, are increasingly vocal in advocating for minorities in the business. As more growers of color enter into the field, their voices are being amplified. Meanwhile, racial justice is helping make the case for legalization in places like New Jersey and New York.

2017 saw the marijuana industry continue to grow and mature, a trend that will only continue in 2018.



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