What Does the Future Hold for Black Market Marijuana Growers?

Growing Marijuana Perfectly is the premier magazine for home-based, small-scale, black market and craft marijuana growers, processors and sellers—the people who the legalizers, regulators, and legal marijuana profiteers have continued to have a drug war against as they profit from the industry we created.

And I’m totally sick and tired of the demonization of those of us who don’t want government licenses to grow, process, and sell marijuana. I don’t consider it “legalization” or “freedom” when the government gets in bed with corporations, vulture capitalists, and other people to give exclusive rights to profiteers to grow, process and sell marijuana. Those of us who grow marijuana on our own have rights too!

I don’t appreciate the legalized marijuana industry trying to steal the marijuana marketplace away from those of us who created the market. I’ve met so many of the “New Marijuana” people who are greedy, smug, arrogant, shark-faced former real estate agents, car salesmen, hucksters, scam artists, trust fund babies, and wealthy elites who jumped on the marijuana train as soon as it was legally safe to do so. They have dollar signs in their eyes, and many of them don’t even use cannabis!

In some parts of Canada, black market growers are choosing to attempt to qualify for government “craft cannabis” licenses that allow them to become legal without having to run marijuana factories. I understand the benefits of going legal, and if I was going to do it, a craft cannabis license would probably be the only way I’d choose.

The people who get into the legal cannabis industry hoping to get rich quick while also dissing the black market should remember the entire reason there’s a marijuana industry at all is that starting in the 1960s a bunch of people, some of whom are now 65 years old and older, started growing domestic marijuana and selling it. Until courageous Dennis Peron sold tons of marijuana and used the profits to sponsor the nation’s first voter-approved medical marijuana law in California in 1996, all marijuana growers and sellers risked brutal police raids, narks, prison and even death sentences to provide cannabis to the masses.

Peron’s Proposition 215, which legalized home growing and gave growers the legal right to provide cannabis person to person, was the only kind of legalization we ever needed. It preserved the profits and craft of small-scale growing, and didn’t allow huge corporate conglomerates to move in and take over the supply chain.

Peron (now deceased) warned about later forms of so-called “legalization” such as what we see in California with the harsh Prop. 64 regulatory scheme designed to make a lot of money for compliance attorneys, inspectors, regulators, local and state government and corporate marijuana profiteers. Many of my California friends say Prop. 64 ruined the state’s marijuana industry, and some of them moved out of the state to grow elsewhere.

What’s really frustrating is that in Canada and many parts of the USA, so-called legalized, licensed marijuana protocols are accompanied by increased police activity and penalties against home growers and providers.

In Oregon and some other legalized places, the glut of legal marijuana has crashed the legal and black market marijuana industries. Gone are the days when a hard-working black-market marijuana grower could raise a family, buy a home, pay off a mortgage and put the kids through college all by running a moderate-sized grow op. Wholesale marijuana prices have crashed, and many marijuana consumers are increasingly going to legal dispensaries to get overpriced schwag, concentrates, edibles, and other products.

The good news is that a decent percentage of marijuana consumers who try legal buds and other legalized products return to the marijuana black market because dispensary prices are high but quality is low. They also have learned about the tainted products, such as the cannabinoid e-cig cartridges we warned you about in a different article here.

But what’s ultimately going to happen for those of us who love to grow our own marijuana, and sell it? The Growing Marijuana Perfectly team recently got together with some of the biggest people in the black market marijuana industry to discuss that.

We all agree that USA legalization will eventually be federalized and in the meantime, more and more states will implement some form of legalization. If a state goes full-on recreational legalization rather than just medical, and allows any scale of home growing, wholesale and retail marijuana prices will drop and profits will shrink. On the other hand, legalization that includes home growing will remove fear of raids and prison from those of us who feel like complying with the plant number limits (in most states where home growing is legal, you can’t grow more than 4-6 plants at a time though).

Those of us at the meeting agreed there will always be customers who want to buy high-grade craft, connoisseur whole buds, hashish, and other concentrates produced by black market growers. Legalized marijuana tends to be bland, generic, and overpriced (due to the many taxes and fees that the legalization structure places on producers and sellers). Skilled black market growers who grow rare, unique, powerful, exciting strains and know how to cure, dry, and market them properly are assured of loyal customers, especially if their prices are lower than legal weed prices.

We also see a thriving market for the highest-quality marijuana seeds and clones, especially landrace strains. One of the biggest problems for the legalized marijuana industry is its inability to get the highest quality seed and clone stock. The hemp industry is struggling with that too.

If you breed your own strains that are more potent, exciting and useful than what people can get at legalized outlets, you’ll have a customer base. More and more people who never used marijuana are realizing it’s better than alcohol, opiates, and prescription drugs such as anti-depressants, so the cannabis consumer base is expanding.

But there are sobering adjustments you have to make if you want to stay in the marijuana growing game. Gone are the days when you can get $3000 or more per pound wholesale for your cannabis. In some places, you’re fortunate to get even half that amount. Back in the glory days when black market cannabis was the only cannabis available, you could afford to get the most expensive grow lights, fertilizers, hydroponics systems, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and other gear and supplies. That’s not so true anymore.

I’ve had to cut way back on the scope and cost of my fertilizer program. I used to use the highest quality base nutrients along with 3-6 additives in grow phase and up to ten additives in bloom phase. It was fun and worth it–when I could sell my buds for $500 an ounce retail or $3000 a pound wholesale. It’s not worth it anymore. Now I’m much more careful about electricity usage, air conditioning temperatures, reverse osmosis water usage, and other costs that I used to not worry about.

I’ve also adjusted the kinds of strains I grow. I used to grow strains solely based on how fantastic the high, scent, and taste were, and whether the strain would work well in my indoor or outdoor grow op. Now I grow more Indica and Kush strains that give huge harvests of fat buds covered in resin glands because I want more grams per watt and more resin glands per watt.

As we outlined in this strategy article for black market growers, there are a series of tactics you can use to retain customers and get new ones. These tactics should all be implemented.

In the longer term, many of us who’ve relied totally on marijuana growing for our income may have to realize that legalization has killed the glory days. I don’t want to go out in the real world and get a “real job,” but I and many other growers have had to contemplate that, even if it’s only a part-time job. We’ve also had to reduce our lifestyle costs by eliminating expensive vacations, cable, and other perks that cost a lot of money.

One of the big-time black market marijuana growers and sellers in the conference group grew up in midwestern farm country. He said that what’s happening to the black market marijuana industry now is what happened to the non-marijuana farming sector beginning about 60 years ago.

Most of America’s farms used to be family farms, he explained. Now, family farms are being forced out of business by globalized corporate conglomerates that run tens of thousands of acres growing GMO crops, using poisons and massive machinery to plunder the land. Other than a few small-scale organic and biodynamic farms, there may come a time when there simply are no more small family farms. These mega-corporations may one day have a total monopoly on our food supply.

Monopolies and corporate control are the worrisome end game that could play out in the marijuana world too, with rich venture capitalists buying up seed and strain patents, colluding with government to put home growers out of business, and cornering the market almost completely.

As has been said elsewhere on this site, I’ll always grow my own marijuana because I trust only myself to do it right. Only if I grow it myself do I get exactly the strains I want, harvested at the right time for me, cured and dried the way I like. Perhaps the biggest adjustment us pot growers have to make is realizing we’re going to keep on growing cannabis regardless of whether we can earn a good living doing it. If you’re only growing marijuana to make money, you might not survive. If you grow marijuana because you love growing, you’re going to do it until the day you die.

 

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