Colorado’s marijuana market

for the Washington Post

Guardian Weekly, Tuesday 19 August 2014 05.00 EDT

That the black market bustles in the emerging days of legalisation 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%.

“I don’t know who is buying for recreational use at dispensaries unless it’s white, middle-class people and out-of-towners,” said Rudy Reddog Balles, a longtime community activist and mediator. “Everyone I know still has the guy on the street that they hook up with.”

This black market boom, the state argues, is a temporary situation. As more legal recreational dispensaries and growers enter the market, the market will adjust. Prices will fall. The illegal market will shrink.

In any case, these first curious months of the legal recreational market have laid bare a socioeconomic faultline. Resentment bubbles in the neighbourhoods where marijuana has always been easy to get.

The resentment goes something like: we Latinos and African Americans from the ‘hood were stigmatised for marijuana use, disdained and disproportionately prosecuted in the war on drugs. We grew up in the culture of marijuana, with grandmothers who made oil from the plants and rubbed it on arthritic hands. We sold it as medicine. We sold it for profit and pleasure.

Now pot is legalised and who benefits? Rich people with their money to invest and their clean criminal records.

About arnulfo

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