The top reason people are still buying illegal weed: survey

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Creating a new legal market will take time to build and to earn the trust of new shoppers.

Legal cannabis is becoming more and more accessible. Still, in countries such as the U.S. and Canada, where there are legal markets in place, black market marijuana sales remain consistent.

According to a new survey, the largest determining factor is price.

The survey, conducted between 2019 and 2020 and published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, polled 12,000 cannabis users in Canada and the U.S. and found that price outranked convenience, which is the second main reason people continue to opt for illegal weed.

The reasons behind why consumers still shop the illicit market was dependent on the year and the country.

Survey authors write: In both years, there were two most commonly reported barriers to legal purchasing. In all, about a third of Canadian repondents and 27 per cent of U.S. respondents citing price, while about a fifth of Canadian respondents and slightly less than U.S. respondents pointed to inconvenience.

“In 2020 versus 2019, several factors were less commonly reported as barriers in Canada, including inconvenience and location of legal sources. Certain barriers increased in the United States, including slow delivery and requiring a credit card,” study authors note.

In the U.S., black market cannabis sales are one of the principal wild cards in establishing a functioning legal cannabis market. States such as California, which were among the first to establish legal markets, have allowed the two markets to coexist, something that cannabis workers have called “extremely unfair.”

Alex Brough, co-founder of Keneh Ventures, a private equity fund that invests in businesses ancillary to the legal marijuana trade, made his thoughts known in an interview with Times Union.

Brough noted the differences between a legal dispensary owner who “does everything above-book” and a bootlegger selling cheap, untested weed.

“You don’t know any better, you’re not an industry expert, and you go to California, and you go to get an [eighth-ounce] of chronic at this place for US$60, and at this place across the street, they’re selling it for US$30,” he said.

“If you’re at all budget-minded, you’re going for the US$30.”

U.S. states that are establishing new cannabis markets can use the experience of states that legalized earlier as guideposts, allowing for more controlled transitions and accurate predictions of how their legal market would work.

Still, cannabis black market sales have existed for decades, with businesses having built relationships with shoppers. Creating a new legal market will take time to build and to earn the trust of new shoppers.

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