Will legal marijuana put an end to Massachusetts' black market?
Eli Sherman Wicked Local @Eli_Sherman
Retail shops that start legally selling cannabis products this summer in Massachusetts will likely find themselves going head-to-head with a formidable and long-established competitor — the black market.
Advocates of adult-use marijuana, known also as recreational marijuana, have long argued legalization could help eradicate the illicit trade. But how quickly — and, if at all — that happens is still being debated and measured throughout the country. In Massachusetts, the question will be put to the test in the months and years after commercial sales begin July 1.
“Some states have handled this better than others,” said Kris Krane, president of 4Front Ventures, a Boston-based holding company of Mission Massachusetts Inc.
Mission has plans in July to open a medical-marijuana dispensary in Worcester and is eyeing another in Adams. The company is trying to set up a third location in Burlington, but has so far been unsuccessful because of local pushback. Burlington is one of at least 74 municipalities to ban adult-use sales at the local level.
Mission also does business in Illinois, Maryland and Pennsylvania and recently started the application process for an adult-use license in Massachusetts. Krane said he’s confident commercial sales will help get rid of the black market, but encourages local and state officials to be patient in the early days as the market establishes itself.
“It’s not a matter of whether it eliminates the black market, it’s more a matter of how long it takes,” he said.
The issue in part, he added, is tied to how quickly the legal market can bring down prices to a level competitive with the black market. In the beginning, the supply of legal cannabis products will most likely be scant, as the burgeoning grow market, known also as cultivators, simultaneously becomes established.