Black Market Boom Lays Bare a Social Divide in Colorado’s Marijuana Market

In these, the curious, infant days of Colorado’s legalisation of recreational marijuana, of shiny dispensaries and touch-screen ordering and suburban parties where joints are passed like appetisers over granite countertops, no one would notice the duplex. Plain brick, patchy grass behind chain link, it appears weary, resigned to what the tenant calls “the ‘hood” and others might call left-behind Denver, untouched by the frenzy of investment that has returned to downtown.

The front door of the duplex stays closed. Sheer white curtains cover the living room window. A basement filtering system vents air scrubbed of the sweet funky smell of the pot growing in the basement. The tenant keeps his grow operation here small. It’s his home. That’s his grandson upstairs watching TV with strict instructions not to open the door if someone knocks. Should the cops inquire, they’d find a frail-looking, middle-age Latino with diabetes and heart problems, talking about his pension and his Medicaid and waving his medical marijuana registry card.

The red card – part of the state’s legal landscape since 2000 when voters approved the sale of marijuana for medical use – allows the grower to cultivate a doctor-prescribed 16 plants. It does not allow him to sell what he does not consume to the underground market. It does not allow him a second grow operation in another rented house where he and a partner grew 55 plants until the landlord grew suspicious. It does not allow him to run his own little corner of a black market that still exists in the state with America’s most permissive legal pot sales.

The grower says he recently sold more than 9kg of his weed – Blue Dream for the mellow, Green Crack for the perk – to middlemen who flipped it for almost double the price.

“I try to keep it legal,” he says, “but sometimes it’s illegal.”

– Read the entire article at The Washington Post.

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