THC and CBD Products – We’re in the middle of a cannabis cultural shift. We have a better scientific understanding of the plant and its constituents than ever before, we have countless product options available, and with mass-normalization happening, being a canna-consumer no longer comes with derogatory stereotypes. Snagging your favorite cannabis product on the way home from a long day at the office no longer means meeting a plug in some sketchy parking lot and yet there are still people who choose to get their cannabis goods from the black market instead of a regulated, licensed dispensary. Let’s explore why you should buy your THC and CBD products at a licensed dispensary.
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Why Buying THC and CBD Products on the Black Market is a Bad Idea
Less than 30 years ago, US citizens had to purchase any cannabis product on the black market, whether they were an adult-user or medical patient. As the normalization of cannabis continues to sweep the country, well over half of the states have some form of a legal cannabis program in place. These programs often implement strict regulation in terms of required testing, labeling, and manufacturing processes. This helps provide consumers with confidence that the product they’re purchasing is as advertised and safe, which is a new and welcome addition for a lot of cannabis consumers. Surprisingly though, many people continue to avoid purchasing their THC and CBD products from licensed and regulated dispensaries and instead venture to the black market for their canna-needs. Let’s dig into the multitude of reasons that this practice is a bad idea.
THC and CBD Products – Safety. Safety. Safety.
Plain and simple, black market THC and CBD pose a real threat to user safety. This is because there’s obviously no regulatory body or governing agency that oversees the products on the black market. While you may find yourself thinking, yeah, but I trust my plug. They’ve always got good products; you have to recognize that the safety concerns dive much deeper than blind trust in someone who has no accountability for their black market wares.
Consider for a moment, the fact that nobody is checking your black market supplier’s grow operation (if you even know where that is or who it comes from) to verify that best practices are being put into place to keep you and other users safe down the line. For example, cannabis plants are notorious for attracting insects and mold. That’s just the nature of the plant, apparently humans aren’t the only species that can’t resist it. In the legal and regulated industry, there are guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs) that detail how a grower is allowed to manage pests and/or mold. Most of these guidelines only permit the use of approved, more natural methods of pest/mold control, which is put into place for your safety.
On the other hand, if some random black market grower with a few plants in their basement sees that they’ve somehow got a caterpillar infestation or notice several plants have developed White Powdery Mildew, they’re more likely to do whatever is necessary to eradicate the problem. More often than not, this means turning a blind eye and using harsh pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides which will eventually end up in the bodies of the end user.
An example of dangerous compounds making their way into cannabis is myclobutanil. This compound was used for quite a while in illegal grow operations with no concerns about safety as it had been used safely on citrus plants. Once it was discovered that myclobutanil converts to hydrogen cyanide when heated, the legal cannabis industry started testing for it in each and every batch. This is an example of when, even with the best intentions, illegal growers may be introducing poisons into their operations.
In fact, a 2018 study conducted by the Integral Ecology Research Center (IERC) as part of their Cannabis, Soil, and Water Project, found that 89% of black market cannabis that they tested, contained pesticides.
“Nah…my plug doesn’t have any pests or mold, so I should be good, right?”…Wrong. Pesticides and herbicides aren’t the only additive that can present health concerns for the end user. Even if a black market grower is fortunate enough to avoid pests and mold, they still want to do everything possible to make their plants flourish. Unfortunately, this often leads to black market growers pumping the soil full of synthetic fertilizers. Although some fertilizers are completely acceptable for growers to use, many black market growers fall into the temptation to incorporate potentially harmful fertilizers into their plants. Not exactly something you want to ingest, inhale, or absorb.
Testing is an easy aspect to take for granted but consider the peace of mind you have when you can quickly read your products label and verify that it has been tested by an unbiased, third-party lab for not only potency, but for potentially harmful components as well.
When it comes to black market THC and CBD products, this luxury goes out the window. Most black market cannabis products are not lab tested before reaching the end user. You’re probably grumbling that ‘yeah, but the black market stuff I buy always seems to be as potent as dispensary goods, so what’s it matter if it isn’t tested’? To which, we will remind you that third-party lab testing isn’t just so you know that you’re getting what you paid for, it is also so you can avoid the things that you don’t want in your products.
A quality lab test will typically have a scannable QR code or URL that takes you directly to that product’s certificate of analysis (COA) provided by the testing lab. These COAs will not only confirm the potency of your product, but will provide insight on terpene profile, underlying minor cannabinoids, herbicides, pesticides, mycotoxins (mold/fungus), heavy metals, residual solvents, and more. This type of information is invaluable for your health and safety.
Even if you’re in an area where adult-use or recreational cannabis use is permitted, doesn’t necessarily mean anything goes. Assuming you meet the qualifications set forth by your state, possession of regulated, legally acquired cannabis products is permitted. That said, there are potential legal ramifications by being involved in black market cannabis. If you’re unable or unwilling to provide a chain of custody or evidence that your THC or CBD products were legally obtained at a legal, licensed dispensary, you could find yourself answering some tough questions from law enforcement. While this scenario is pretty unlikely to play out, the risk could be completely eliminated by making sure all of your cannabis products are purchased from a legal dispensary.
Running parallel to the subject of safety, product inconsistency is a very real threat to those who purchase their THC and CBD products on the black market. Legal, regulated, and lab-tested cannabis products like Koan Cordials will provide you with proof of product consistency by supplying testing lab COAs. Without these, as is the case with most black market THC and CBD products, you have no means of knowing that the black market product you just purchased is the same thing that you picked up last time.
In a sense, every purchase is a gamble in terms of product consistency. If you’ve ever purchased a product from the black market and enjoyed it so much that you purchased more, only to discover that the second time around wasn’t even close to the same experience, you’ve likely fallen victim to product inconsistency.
It should be mentioned that product inconsistency can still be an issue even in some legally obtained products, especially cannabis flower. The difference is that you have a backup of readily available COA data at the dispensary. For example, Blue Dream purchased from the same legal location on two different dates will not be exactly the same, but you can better manage expectations or purchase a different strain if the potency data that you can see in a dispensary is vastly different from your previous purchases. With the use of products like Koan Cordials, concerns of consistency can become a thing of the past because of the precision blending techniques used to create a product that delivers the same dosage from batch to batch.
Risk of Counterfeit Products
Another threat to customers of black market THC and CBD products are counterfeit products. These present a bevy of risks to end-users because they’re often created with one thing in mind, profit. This means there’s a good chance that the producer of the counterfeit goods is utilizing low-quality, potentially harmful ingredients in an attempt to convince customers that their product is something that it isn’t. Counterfeit cannabis products are the epitome of risky choices for canna-consumers. Black market contacts or unlicensed dispensaries contain many more instances of counterfeit products than legal ones.
It feels like news feeds are filled daily with the latest story about illicit cannabis grow facilities that span over several acres being busted and considering that it is pretty obvious we’re not exactly been treating the Earth well considering the droughts, wildfires, and floods that continue to wreak havoc across the country. Supporting these illicit grow facilities often indirectly causes even more environmental damage.
By purchasing black market cannabis products, there’s a good chance that you’re also promoting these massive illicit grow operations who have proven time and time again that they have no regard for environmental preservation. There are numerous reports of illegal grow ops being caught dumping tons of harsh chemicals, synthetic fertilizers, by-products, and more directly into drainage systems or the surrounding land. This, coupled with reports of resource theft from surrounding communities (land, water, electricity, etc.) have illustrated how harmful these black market grow ops are to the environment and communities near them.
Why Dispensary THC and CBD Products are Always the Best Route for Consumers
Simply put, there’s no sound logic behind purchasing black market cannabis products. The risks far outweigh any perceived benefit. Sure, you may save a couple of bucks by avoiding taxes, but in the grand scheme of things, a portion of that tax revenue goes back into regulatory bodies whose responsibility it is to ensure your dispensary cannabis products meet all safety guidelines and standards.
From a safety standpoint, cannabis products sold in a legal, regulated, and licensed dispensary will maintain all required testing for not only potency, but to ensure your products are free of potentially harmful ingredients. Additionally, some products sold in dispensaries undergo more than the required scrutiny and testing. For example, Koan Cordials not only maintains all state required product testing, but their cordials undergo beta testing by a panel whose job it is to scrutinize the products and provide constructive feedback. This occurs before the products ever hit the shelves. This panel of beta testers is just another way that Koan Cordials ensures consistency of effects and appeal across a high majority of consumers. Good luck finding that on the black market.
From the stance of the dispensary owner, it is also in your best interest to sell legal products. By filling your store with illegal and/or counterfeit products, you risk losing your hard-won licenses and could even be forced to shut down if you’re caught.
In the age of remote work, it is easy to talk yourself out of a dispensary visit solely because you’re still in your pajamas and the thought of changing clothes, fighting traffic, and venturing to a dispensary leaves you completely unmotivated. Lucky for you, many dispensaries now have delivery services.
Just as having your pizza delivered to the front door, dispensary deliveries are equally convenient. Does your back-alley plug do that?
Advice From Professionals
Budtenders aren’t solely there to bag your product and take your payment. They can and do provide the invaluable service of helping you understand the product selection, addressing your needs, and supplying an informed outside opinion on products to help ensure you walk away with something that meets your needs. Again, not a perk that you’ll likely find from an illicit operation.
What about Hemp-Derived CBD Shops?
Regulation also turns a blind eye when it comes to the technically legal hemp-derived CBD shops that are popping up everywhere. Even though these stores aren’t selling THC products, they can still present all the risks we’ve highlighted given that there is no regulatory oversight. Therefore, it is a best practice to purchase even your CBD only products at a legal and licensed cannabis dispensary.
Buying THC and CBD Products from a Dispensary is Worth the Peace of Mind
Do yourself a favor, don’t fall into the trap of thinking ‘I’ll be fine…nothing bad will happen to me.’ Sure, there’s a chance that you may get lucky and skirt around any ill effects of buying cannabis products on the black market, but statistically, the odds aren’t in your favor. Instead, try supporting your local dispensary. Not only will you have access to a wide selection of tested and regulated products like Koan Cordials, but who knows, you may even make some new friends along the way as opposed to the plug who you text once every few weeks.