A black market weed dealer on the bizarre, unexpected ways legalization has affected underground pot

A black market weed dealer on the bizarre, unexpected ways legalization has affected underground pot

VicesDecember 23, 2014

A year after marijuana’s legalization in Colorado, we sat down with our friend the black market weed dealer to find out if legal weed fucked up the underground like it was intended to. Turns out the only thing it’s fucked up is people’s tolerance for shitty weed. Legalization, it seems, has actually created a new market within the black market: weed snobbery.

As a dealer on the black market, how has legalization affected you?

It hasn’t. The black market is its own thing. They tried to shut it down with the legalization thing, but it’s the same as it was. You can’t really ever shut the black market down.

Who buys from you now and how much do they buy?

Since legalization, I’m selling to more people from other states. They buy five, ten, twenty pounds at a time usually. Obviously, the black market is booming in other states where weed isn’t legal, so a lot of our business is moving shit to those places. It gets so much more expensive out of state too. A pound here is between $2,000 an $2,500, but in New York, it goes for $4,000. And that’s in bulk. When it gets broken down, it’s worth even more.

Why would people chose to continue buying black market weed?

People that grow their own crops, whether it’s for medical patients or recreational users, tend to have a little more love and appreciation for it. They use different grow methods, experiment with different or unusual strains and are usually organic. There’s a sort of hand-grown, small-batch quality to it. Plus, dispensaries are run like retail. Everything is sold based on wholesale weight. It’s not like that on the black market. You move bigger quantities. If you want more than a gram or a few joints, the black market is there for you.

Is the black market really that much cheaper than medical and recrational?

It’s all over the board. Some black market dealers charge insanely high prices for really delicately grown plants that they dote on day in and day out like they were infants or something, and others are dirt cheap because they have to move product or they don’t have the same overhead a dispensary grow house does.

How are you able to operate your own grow operation without having to use pesticides and other chemicals?

My production isn’t actually that big. Some of the bigger grow houses in Denver have 600 lights in a warehouse. I have four. In my house at least. I have have other houses where I control grows, but each house produces a small quantity on its own. So I’m able to take a lot more care of my plants. It’s all organic. I don’t use pesticides.

How much would you say that people care about the quality of their weed now? Are people really into organic weed?

It used to be that on the black market, if it looked good and it smelled good, it would sell instantly and no one cared about quality. But people nowadays are big-time weed snobs. If you smoke weed a lot, you can easily tell good weed from bad weed.

So, you’d say that given that everyone in Colorado is a sudden weed connoisseur, people are more interested in quality than the fact that they can buy weed in general.

Yes. There’s so much available and so many different strains that weed has become like craft beer. It’s something people can really get into and nerd out on like wine or cigars. Not as much outside of Colorado though, because they don’t have exposure to the same range of products as we do. It’s something totally unique to here, and something that’s new that I don’t remember seeing as much of.

Legalization has made people weed snobs?

Totally.

Do you think this new breed of Colorado weed snobs is for or against federal legalization? Wouldn’t it mean it would be even more mass-produced?

There’s a lot of people that aren’t hyped on the idea of the government getting into weed, because of GMOs and that kind of shit ... which they already are. Monsanto already has patents on five strains and have current lawsuits with dispensaries that are using those strains.

What’s keeping you from selling to a medical or recreational dispensary?

Well, in July, a law got passed that says for something like $10-15,000, you can buy this license that lets you sell to dispensaries. And you have to renew it every year. I’d actually be down if I had that much money! You’d also have to pay taxes on it too. But I like that no one’s in your business on the black market.

When it comes to for getting caught, have you noticed that the stakes are lower now that weed is legal?

Yeah, they really are. I am so much more relaxed now. I got pulled over the other night by a cop who asked me if I had anything in the car. I had a gram or two on me in the glovebox, so I was like, “Yep. I sure do.” She grilled me for a few minutes then was all, “Okay! As long as you can’t reach it and you weren’t smoking in the car. Have a great night!” No ticket or anything. She just wanted make sure I wasn’t driving high.

What about on a larger scale? Do you feel like the DEA cares about what you’re doing now?

I think they’re aware of what’s going on in the black market, but they’ve got bigger fish to fry. They’re making loot off it too. They’ve got all these stations set up at the state borders, and they’re just scooping up people’s weed at these checkpoints. Everyone is making money from this. If anything, legalization has just lifted a weight off my shoulders. But I don’t think for a second that they couldn’t come in here and break down the doors and take everything.

Has legalization affected black market prices?

The prices have gone down significantly because there’s so much supply. Everyone is growing weed. But things are more relaxed and the demand is steady. I sold my first-ever crop for $3,800 a pound. Now they’re down to $2,000. And that was over only two years. But I’d chose peace of mind over higher prices.

Is there a psychological component to people continuing to buy black market weed? For our entire lives, we had to go underground to find it — is there sort of adherence to tradition or a nostalgia there?

Honestly no. If you’re smart and you deal with the right people, it’s just like any other business and it shouldn’t feel sketchy and underground.

Do you think the persistence of the black market has anything to do with revenue from recreational weed taxes being 60% less than they were projected to be?

No one wants to pay their high taxes. That’s why people are growing in their closets and bathtubs and shit. Plus, you can grow six plants. That is more than enough to supply you. It’s so ironic how they thought legalization would end the black market but it’s just making black market growers craftier and more resourceful.

So, after all this, are you for or against legalization?

Honestly ... I just like the decriminalization part. I think legalization might make it too tightly regulated. Although legalization is creating a lot of jobs and really helping the economy. The government is making a shit-ton of money. For every pound you grow, you have to give them $350. And that’s on top of all the other fees they have to pay. I don’t hate that ... either way, it just doesn’t really affect me.

So, then what kind of conditions would have to occur for you to make the most money on the black market?

Honestly, a drought in Humboldt County. Then we could really drive up prices. I don’t wish harm on anyone ... but yeah, I hope those crops burn to the ground.