A recent story for Vice quotes Marron Institute Professor Mark Kleiman on the problem of cross-state cannabis smuggling in the wake of state-level legalizations. Though the states that legalize see a shrinking of their black markets, illicit product is increasingly being shipped out of their borders.
There are a lot of possible reasons behind the increase in interstate trafficking, according to experts.
For one, the abundance of licenses issued by the states have made it easier for illegal operations to hide in plain sight, said Kleiman, and while operators are required to work within a track-and-trace program intended to keep tabs on every plant grown, some have learned how to cheat the system. Then there’s the sheer volume of cannabis being grown in many of these states, which has resulted in an oversupply ripe for the illegal market. For example in Oregon, cultivators are capable of growing about 2 million pounds of weed per year but consumption demands top out around about 372,000 pounds annually, according to a report released in August by a coalition of government agencies. (It should be noted that this report has proven controversial and much of its data criticized by local authorities and industry folk.)
In Washington as well as Colorado, it appears that illegal growing has actually increased post-legalization, said Kleiman. When all growing was illegal, it was easier to attract attention from law enforcement; now that it’s legal and licenses are abundant, these unpermitted operations are harder to spot.
“An illegal grow looks a lot like a legal grow,” Kleiman said.