The Washington Post

Inside Colorado’s flourishing, segregated black market for pot
The Washington Post

Camouflaged amid the legal medicinal and recreational marijuana market, the ever-adaptable underground market thrives. Some in law enforcement and on the street say it may be as strong as it’s ever been, so great is the unmet local and visitor demand.

That the black market bustles in the emerging days of legalization is not unexpected. By some reckonings, it will continue as long as residents of other states look to Colorado — and now Washington state — as the nation’s giant cannabis cookie jar. And, they add, as long as its legal retail competition keeps prices high and is taxed by state and local government at rates surpassing 30 percent. “I don’t know who is buying for recreational use at dispensaries unless it’s white, middle-class people and out-of-towners,” Rudy Reddog Balles, a longtime community activist and mediator. “Everyone I know still has the guy on the street that they hook up with.”

In this light, taxation is seen as a blunt instrument of exclusion, driving precisely the groups most prosecuted in the war on drug further into the arms of the black market where they remain at risk for arrest or robbery. In one Denver dispensary, a $30 purchase of one-eighth of the Trinity strain of cannabis includes $7.38 in state and local taxes – a near 33 percent rate. As Larisa Bolivar, one of the city’s most well-known proponents of decriminalizing marijuana nationally and opening a true free market, puts it: That seven bucks buys someone lunch. “It’s simple,” she says. “A high tax rate drives black market growth. It’s an incentive for risky behavior.”

Réglementer la marijuana, la taxer ou, encore pire, la nationaliser, ne changera rien au marché noir (et à la criminalité qui l’accompagne). La seule solution: la libéralisation.