Let’s face it. Even with medical cannabis becoming legalized in Florida, the black market for marijuana is not going away any time soon. Even in California, the largest legal marijuana market on the globe, where cannabis is legal for all adults, black market operations are still thriving.
If you have a Florida medical marijuana card you have a choice of where to purchase your medicine. That is a choice between buying legal marijuana at a Florida licensed dispensary, or continuing to purchase marijuana from a local dealer.
Aside from the fact that buying outside of a dispensary is illegal and can land you in prison, there are also some other really good reasons that you really ought to be aware of that make buying your medicine at a dispensary extremely compelling.
Let’s get into it.
1. Recreational marijuana is still illegal and the penalties are stiff
This is the obvious one, but it doesn’t hurt to say exactly what’s at stake.
When Florida voters passed Amendment 2, there was nothing in the ballot initiative that called for actually legalizing marijuana in Florida. Although having a medical marijuana card protects you from being arrested, it comes with conditions such as where you can purchase marijuana, how much you can purchase, how much you can transport, how you can transport it, and so on.
It’s not an across-the-board “get out of jail free” card. If you’re outside the boundaries of the law, you can still be arrested, prosecuted, and potentially fined and incarcerated for possession of a controlled substance. Regardless of the sentence, if you’re found guilty of this charge, you will henceforward be labeled as a criminal.
So exactly what is at stake and is it worth the risk?
If you’re convicted of possession of more than your legal limit as permitted by the state’s medical marijuana laws, you become a felon. The crime is punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years, and a fine of up to $5,000. And if you’re caught within 1,000 feet of a school, college, park, or other specified areas, you can be sentenced up to a mind-numbing 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
That price doesn’t include legal fees which can cost even more. Moreover, you could lose your driver’s license and greatly reduce your employability and your potential future earnings.
All added up, it’s simply not worth the risk. If you simply must buy black market marijuana you should just move to a state where it’s legal.
For more on this topic check out our blog post, “Protecting Yourself from the Law with a Florida Medical Marijuana Card.”
2. Buying illicit marijuana supports criminals
If black market marijuana is illegal, then it follows that by buying on the black market you are encouraging violent crimes. Although some products come from small local growers, other products might be coming from a cartel with blood-stained hands. By buying illicit marijuana you are potentially supporting these heinous criminals.
3. Black market marijuana harms the environment
Most of the illicit marijuana on the market comes from Western states like California. Unlike legal growers that operate under strict regulations, illegal growers often have no love for the environment and oftentimes use pesticides and herbicides that are so toxic to the environment that a teaspoon of the substance can kill a grown bear. Some of these chemicals end up in rivers and groundwater causing harm to the environment and humans alike.
If you buy illegal weed, you’re potentially supporting harmful practices.
3. Buying at a dispensary keeps money in our economy
If you’re buying marijuana on the black market, you are potentially sending money out of state and perhaps out of the country to drug lords in Central and South America. That giant sucking sound is millions of dollars leaving the state’s economy. Whereas buying from a dispensary can help our local businesses, and by extension our communities, thrive.
4. Buying at a dispensary helps the program succeed and improve
Buying marijuana illegally weakens the argument that legalizing cannabis is a good idea and makes it harder for activists to influence cannabis policy reforms in the future. The more patients that buy their medicine at a licensed dispensary, the stronger the argument that the program is beneficial becomes.
5. Buying at a dispensary greatly reduces health risks
Just as many illegal growers have no legal incentive to use safe pesticides and herbicides, they also have no incentive to assure that the product they’re selling is safe for consumption.
On the other hand, all products sold at legal dispensaries must be grown under the strict regulations we mentioned earlier. This includes going through lab testing procedures to assure that the batch is free of contaminants, toxins, molds, and so on.
You might be thinking that this is really not an issue considering that some people have been using illegal marijuana for decades. But the long term health effects of putting these chemical and biological toxins into your body can be insidious and slow to develop.
For evidence of the risky nature of black market cannabis products, witness the recent rash of serious lung injuries and even deaths that have been caused by black market vape cartridges.
6. Buying at a dispensary provides more options
While your local dealer might be in possession of a few different strains of cannabis and maybe a few different types of products such as cartridges, very seldom will you find a drug dealer that offers a wide assortment of safe and quality strains, edibles, oils, tinctures, vape pens, and capsules. They are even less likely to know the potency and formulation of those products.
When you purchase your medicine at a dispensary, you know just how much THC and CBD is in the product. Furthermore, oftentimes you have an array of strains available to you including high-CBD/low-THC strains and vice versa.
7. Buying at a dispensary gets you expert advice
Budtenders, as the sales folks are often referred to at dispensaries, are required to have a strong knowledge of the use and efficacy of cannabis products and strains. Sure, you can ask your dealer for something that won’t make you sleepy, but can they really guarantee that?
Dispensaries have a lot more at risk than dealers when it comes to handing out advice. If a dispensary gives bad advice or a product that doesn’t due what it says it should, at the low end they risk losing customers and getting bad reviews, and at the high end, potential legal troubles.
Are you with us?
Hopefully, these seven reasons combined provide you with enough incentive to seek out a reputable dispensary for your medical marijuana. We all need your participation to help to assure its success, protect public health, protect the environment, and reduce violent crime.