There’s a common misconception that the cannabis black market is thriving, even after legalization in nearly two dozen states. But despite the fact that there are no substantive means of measuring illicit sales of any product, new reports from the DEA and US Department of Homeland Security suggest illegal sales of marijuana is drastically lower than in years prior.
There are some statistics that can be taken as ‘proxies’ of these black market statistics. One such instance is confiscations and seizures, which some may argue are a way to measure illicit market sales. Converting confiscations into actual sales can be tricky, but seizures give officials a better understanding of the direction of the market—whether it is growing or shrinking.
In 2016, GreenWave found that there was $11,634,000 worth of state seizures of cannabis, $1,033,000 worth of cannabis confiscations on the southern border, and $178,000.40 worth of other cannabis seized. 2016 brought in $12,845,000.85 total of seized or confiscated cannabis.
In 2017, GreenWave found that only $7,474,000 worth of cannabis was seized by the states. In addition to that, only $600,000.05 was confiscated by officials at the southern border. There was, however, a slight rise in ‘other’ cannabis confiscations totaling $227,000. 2017 brought in a total of $8,301,000.41 total of seized and confiscated cannabis, which was $4.5 million less than the previous year.
While these are rough figures, it gives officials a way of tracking the movement of the cannabis black market. Total confiscations in the US declined by 35 percent from 2016 to 2017.
According to the figures collected by GreenWave, since 2015, the illicit cannabis market has been declining. However, lower cannabis confiscation rates don’t necessarily mean that the cannabis black market is actually shrinking. The lower confiscation rates could be interpreted in several different ways, including as:
- A decline in the efficiency of law enforcement agencies
- A reflection of reduced interest in the law enforcement agencies to prosecute illegal cannabis trade
- A sign of the hurdles federal agencies now face with the legalization of weed across various states
- A reduction in illegal cannabis production and sales
While the cannabis confiscation numbers are down, it’s impossible to know the exact reason behind the drop. What do you think is the most likely reason?