When the DEA began to crack down on the illegal marijuana trade, many weed sellers were left with no other choice but to start online stores.
With that, they’re starting to see a significant uptick in demand from buyers.
A study by the Marijuana Policy Project found that marijuana sales in Colorado are up 17% over the past year, while sales in Washington state are up nearly 20% over that time.
As a result, some of the more than 300 marijuana dispensaries in the US are now accepting orders from buyers in real time, which is why the black market is booming.
“There’s a lot of pressure on sellers to sell to buyers, and to do so without being caught, which makes it a lot easier to sell,” says Rob Stiles, the director of policy and government affairs at the Marijuana Business Alliance.
“The black market will grow even more over time.”
One of the biggest challenges is that most buyers don’t know how to legally sell marijuana online.
That’s because it’s illegal to sell it to anyone under 21 in the state of Colorado.
In order to be able to sell weed online legally, vendors have to register with the state.
The state’s online register of sellers is filled out by a state-authorized vendor and it requires buyers to provide proof of age, address, and Social Security number, as well as a photo ID.
But those aren’t easy to come by, and even though a number of states are considering regulating marijuana like alcohol, they’ve struggled to come up with an effective system.
Even if they do manage to comply, some weed sellers will be left in the dark.
“We don’t really know how long it will take to figure this out,” says Mark Cramer, an assistant professor at the University of Denver.
He’s also concerned that state laws and regulations will continue to hamper the underground economy.
“If the states don’t regulate it, it’s going to grow,” Cramer says.
“It’s going out of control.”
For now, the most common method for selling marijuana online is to hire an experienced seller who’s already been licensed by the state to sell, and he or she can make money off the sale of small amounts of marijuana.
The more serious sellers, however, typically take the gamble on making a huge profit on a huge number of sales.
And with so many different sellers, there’s no way to be sure which ones are legit.
That means sellers can’t be sure that each one is truly licensed to sell marijuana, which means there’s a high risk that they won’t be able even to keep up with demand.
Some sellers may try to circumvent the rules by selling to people who don’t live in the states that allow online sales, but it’s not a great option.
“They are not selling legally, they are selling with the intent of getting it into someone’s house,” Custer says.
In the end, it may just be better to be selling online than in person.