I can be really naive and idealistic sometimes. Like the time I made my very first legal cannabis purchase in NJ back in 2012 and convinced myself that it was a whole new ballgame. Maybe it was a new ballgame for anyone on the business side. But looking back not much changed for those of us who still mostly rely on the black market to acquire our medicine.
There are many reasons why patients and consumers like myself still choose black market weed.
Below are several reasons I don’t shop at dispensaries. And also one very important reason why I do.
I can’t afford NJ dispensary weed. It’s that basic.
An ounce of best-quality medical cannabis at a NJ dispensary will set you back between $400-$500. I wish I could recall the name of the strain that was selling for $530/ounce in Egg Harbor Township. That’s still the highest I’ve seen.
And it’s off-the-charts expensive, prohibitively so for most of us.
For comparison, my black market connection undercuts that price by half. And it’s usually better quality because my black market cannabis is generally not “tumbled” before I consume it.
So what does “tumbled” mean?
Sometimes medical cannabis from NJ dispensaries has been tumbled in something like a clothes dryer before it’s bagged up and sold to patients. The tumbling process removes some of the best bits of the buds which dispensaries use to make their oils and vape cartridges (which they sell separately and at a markup.)
Dispensaries are actually selling cannabis that’s been stripped of its most therapeutic compounds and most consumers don’t even know it.
You know who doesn’t tumble his weed? My blackmarket legacy dealer.
Who’s also a farmer.
A TAXING CHOICE
Sales tax levied on medical marijuana purchases is slowly ramping down from 6.625% back in 2012 to 0% starting in July of 2022. We’re currently perched at 4% sales tax on medical cannabis purchases which is better than before but still unacceptably high.
Forcing sick people to pay taxes on their (very expensive) medicine is an invasion of liberty. And when the practice finally ends next year, it’ll blunt one of patients’ most righteous grievances.
I’m glad sales tax on medical cannabis is winding down. But you know who never charged sales tax to begin with?
My black market legacy dealer.
Some people can’t smoke. Anyone in hospice for example, or someone with respiratory issues. Even someone who simply prefers edibles deserves that option.
If you want cannabis edibles legally in NJ, you’re gonna have to make your own from dispensary weed which, at 500/oz, you better know what you’re doing!
Edibles are not legally sold in NJ dispensaries because lawmakers and regulators fear they might end up in the hands of youngsters (which we obviously do not want.) The hysteria surrounding edibles sounds a lot same naysayers who, every Halloween, gin up irrational fear about cannabis-laced goodies in trick-or-treat bags (despite no evidence that’s every actually happened.)
Cannabis edibles are available in most other medical cannabis states. But in New Jersey, if you want a non-smokable alternative, you’re on your own.
My blackmarket/legacy dealer has edibles from cannabis that he grows himself. He’s got cookies, frozen cookie dough balls, and cannabutter.
For pick up or delivery.
Imagine you’re undergoing cancer treatment or in hospice and you need medical cannabis to manage your symptoms.
In NJ, you’re gonna have to get out of bed, drive to the dispensary, park (no small feat), wait in line (they’re long), then drive all the way back home just to acquire your meds.
Lawmakers and regulators alike know we need home delivery of medical cannabis in NJ. There’ve been some bills circulating, but so far no meaningful progress on home delivery in NJ.
It’s a nice feeling to know that, after a long day taking care of business and my family, my legacy dealer already made the delivery several hours ago.
Delivery is convenient. Dispensary weed in NJ is quite frequently the opposite of convenient.
LINE OF CREDIT
Me: I’m out of meds ’til Friday and I’m broke.
Legacy dealer: No prob. Come over and get what y0u need and get me back whenever you can.
That’s a level of convenience, compassion, and customer service that’s simply unthinkable at any of NJ’s medical cannabis dispensaries, where you gotta be cash liquid just to get in line.
I’m a middle class guy who doesn’t want for much. But I’m not always cash liquid when I need it to afford those dispensary prices.
In real life there’s Amex for something I can’t afford until payday. But since pot remains illegal on a Federal level, heavily-regulated industries like banking can’t get in on the cannabis gold-rush without triggering unwanted oversight. So you can’t swipe your Amex (or debit card) for weed at NJ dispensaries where cash is still king.
It’s not the fault of NJ dispensaries that we can’t use our debit/credit cards to purchase medical cannabis. But instead of lobbying against home cultivation like they do, NJ dispensaries should aim their considerable lobbying budget at loosening banking regulations. Then we can move on from the current cash-only model towards the ultimate goal: having health insurance plans cover most medical cannabis purchases.
In the meantime, I’m sticking with my legacy dealer who’s always been kind enough to float me a 0% interest line of credit when I need it.
I’m extremely lucky to have a legacy cannabis dealer who I trust and who’s got my back. I can trace each puff of cannabis back to the seed and that’s a blessing I’ll never take for granted. And since it’s half the price of NJ dispensaries, I’ll stick with out-of-regulation cannabis flowers for the time being.
But I still rely on NJ dispensaries for my vape cartridges because it’s hard to trace bootleg/black market cartridges back to seed. A (very bad) case of bronchitis back in 2019 demonstrated to me that, at least when it come to vape carts, NJ’s heavily regulated model is the best bet for safety’s sake.
Jay Lassiter is an award-winning writer and podcaster who, as America’s first state house blogger, pioneered the media landscape we’re currently living in.