DENVER (AP) — A 25-year-old is shot dead trying to sell marijuana the old-fashioned, illegal way. Two men from Texas set up a warehouse to grow more than they would ever need.
While no one expected the state’s first-in-the-nation recreational sales would eliminate the need for dangerous underground sales overnight.
Pot advocates say the state is in a transition period, and while pot-related crimes will continue, they will begin to decline as more stores open and prices of legal marijuana decline.
“It’s just a transition period,” activist Brian Vicente said. “Marijuana was illegal for the last 80 years in our state, and there are some remnants of that still around. Certainly, much like alcohol, over time these underground dealers will fade away.”
Sales are due to begin in June in Washington, where authorities will be watching for similar cases.
“There’s going to be a black market here,” said Cmdr. Pat Slack of the Snohomish Regional Drug/Gang Task Force, which covers an area outside Seattle. “There will be drug rip-offs and drug debts that haven’t been paid. All of that is going to stay.”
Under Colorado’s voter-approved law, it is legal to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.
Such deals are the exception, said Vicente. The “average customer” prefers to buy in a well-lit, regulated store, he said, citing the roughly $2 million Colorado made in marijuana taxes in January alone.
Whether dangerous or not, it can still be cheaper to buy pot from a drug dealer.
Voters who approved recreational sales in Colorado also agreed to a 12.9 percent state sales tax and a 15 percent excise tax on it. Local jurisdictions can also add their own taxes. Medical marijuana is taxed, too, but at a much lower rate — a 2.9 percent sales tax.
Those taxes mean an ounce of pot can go for $400 or more at a state-sanctioned store, depending on quality and potency. An ounce on the street can run between $200 and $280, depending on how much a dealer wants to profit, Comte said.
Underground dealers also are not burdened by complex regulations and licenses
A Lakewood man was arrested in March after postal inspectors intercepted a package he was mailing containing a pound of pot. Drug task force officers who later searched his home found scores of gallon-sized bags of marijuana and 76 plants.
Marijuana cases can be hard to prosecute and are not cost-effective, so police often prefer to focus attention on drugs like heroin and methamphetamine, Comte said.
Mark Kleiman, a public policy professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who is helping Washington set up its legal marijuana industry, said the black market’s survival has less to do with taxes than with a shortage of legal stores.
Colorado has more than 160 state-licensed stores, but they remain concentrated in the Denver area. Many towns don’t have any.
“When there are more stores and more products in the stores and prices settle down, then we’ll see,” Kleiman said. “I would be very surprised if the illicit market can compete at all.”
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Wikipedia resource for more information of legality of Marijuana in the United States:
LEGAL POT IN COLORADO HASN’T STOPPED MARIJUANA BLACK MARKET.