The first stores legally selling marijuana in Colorado opened earlier this year, but that doesn’t mean the black market has suddenly shut down. Police claim that illegal sales and drug-related violence are still rampant despite legalization.

Marijuana

“[Legalization] has done nothing more than enhance the opportunity for the black market,” said Lt. Mark Comte of the Colorado Springs police vice and narcotics unit, (h/t Cheryl Chumley at The Washington Times). “If you can get it tax-free on the corner, you’re going to get it on the corner.”

Colorado Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana use in Colorado, was signed into law last year, but legitimate businesses still only had about six months to set up shop. Since importing from another state would be a Federal crime, the amendment had provisions for licensing suppliers, testing facilities, and anything else needed for a self-contained industry.

It’s debatable whether the new shops actually have a competitive advantage over someone selling drugs on the street corner. Not being able to get shipped off to prison is a nice perk, and they might save money on legal fees, but they also have to pay taxes and deal with regulators.

Advocates say this is just a transition

Marijuana legalization advocates say that it’s just a matter of time before buyers change their habits and start buying from legal venues and that we are really just witnessing a transition. For someone who has been buying illegally from the same dealer for years, it probably doesn’t make sense to find someone new now that the law has changed. IF anything, the risk of getting caught is even lower than the risk they are already accustomed to. The black market, for its part, could probably be incentivized to go legit with a heavy crackdown on dealers.

Marijuana legalization may spread to DC

Attitudes toward marijuana have been changing for years, with medical use being decriminalized first, followed by legalization (even for recreational use) in Colorado and Washington state, and there is a move to legalize it in Washington DC as well, reports Aaron Davis for The Washington Post. If Colorado and Washington can manage the transition without too many problems, the promise of more tax revenues and savings from reduced incarceration rates (not to mention the harms caused by unnecessary incarcerations) could be enough to persuade the rest of the country to take give the subject another look.