What to call the illegal marijuana market

A gray market or parallel market is the trading of a good through distribution channels that are not authorized by the original manufacturer or brand owner. Gray market products (gray goods) are products that are traded outside the authorized distribution channel. The wording and process help make it seem more legal than the black market.

In conversations with industry leaders, there is clearly a minority effort to slow down legalization and redefine the black market as a “perfectly OK” option for the average consumer. Both New York and California have huge black or illegal markets. New York's botched licensing rollout has created a legal market with approximately 85 pharmacies and over 2,000 unlicensed pharmacies selling both legal and illegal products to the public. California's oppressive taxes and lack of enforcement have allowed illicit cultivation to flourish. It is rumored that these plants were quietly sold to legal producers to produce products to help reduce costs.

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Most traditional media outlets, data analysts, and legitimate investors and executives refer to it as a black market. A thriving black market harms both the legalization process and legal businesses. Colorado and Maine are two examples of states that have done great work to curb the illegal market. While there may be gains in the short term, in the long term it will slow the growth and spread of cannabis for both recreational and medical use.

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