While California’s legal cannabis market earned an estimated $3.1 billion in 2019, the black market raked in approximately $8.7 billion last year. The good news is that legal cannabis sales in the state are expected to overtake illicit sales in 2024, reaching $7.2 billion compared to $6.4 billion for the latter.
Meanwhile, California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control is requesting additional funding in the new state budget to expand its police force to 87 members to boost compliance, support legal operators, and protect consumers from products such as cannabis flower, edibles, tinctures and concentrates that are untested and potentially dangerous for consumption.
Andrew Sheeler, a reporter with the Sacramento Bee, explained that deploying more police officers as opposed to investigators would give the Bureau of Cannabis Control more power to enforce regulations.
For example, peace officers could investigate unlicensed and criminal cannabis activity and assist the bureau’s special investigators with on-site inspections.
This authority is more than what a “regular investigator” is able to provide, according to Sheeler.
Specifically, “Regular investigators are unable to seize any unlicensed or illicit cannabis that they find. They are also unable to make arrests, verify whether a person is in proper possession of a firearm, write search warrants or access criminal databases,” he noted.
The product safety aspect concerning legal cannabis versus black market cannabis was highlighted in May, when excessive levels of lead were discovered in a watermelon tincture manufactured by Florida-based Summitt Labs. A voluntary nationwide recall was issued for the tainted product, which has the potential to cause pain, nausea and kidney damage if ingested.
The company had performed its own test on the tincture using an accredited, independent lab that found acceptable levels of lead as set forth under Florida’s state law. However, another batch of the tincture tested by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services showed excessive lead outside of the allowable range.
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