Monday May 27, 2024

California’s cannabis black market thrives despite legalization

March 30, 2023

LOS ANGELES: Omar Buddakey emerges from a nondescript building in Los Angeles with a joint in his hand.

Five years after cannabis was legalized in California, black market transactions like this one -- where no one pays any taxes, and the product is not regulated -- remain commonplace. “Legal shops are too expensive,” the 27-year-old tells AFP, as he lights up his preroll.

Over the course of a year Buddakey estimates he saves the equivalent of a paycheck from his patient transport job by avoiding the state-sanctioned outlets. “I´d rather pay less for the same thing. And I know it´s the same thing, because it gives me the same feeling.”

Buddakey´s working-class neighborhood in east Los Angeles is teeming with stores like this one, many marked by a green cross. Although they are illegal, they openly advertise online, and many have their own websites. Inside one of them, a man who gives his name only as “Joe” welcomes a steady stream of customers who are offered a selection of buds and leaves.