5 Lies MSOs Tell About Unlicensed (Black Market) Weed When They Can't Sell Theirs
What are they, why they're wrong, and how to outsmart them.
In so many ways, Big Cannabis continues to lie about the best ways to shop, profit from, and build your relationship with cannabis.
Whether you're a consumer looking for the best product, a hobby grower who's in it for the love of the plant, or a non-consumer that simply wants to know the truth about the cannabis market (the whole picture, not just the painted legal picture), being able to spot these lies when you see them will not only make you invincible to corporate lies, but could also encourage you to advocate for truth-telling in the cannabis industry (and maybe even try your hand at unlicensed hobby growing yourself).
You should feel comfortable and confident when it comes to cannabis, and know when you're being lied to, why it's a lie, and how to respond.
Lie #1. Unlicensed weed is unsafe.
They say: Unlicensed grows don't care about safe growing conditions and often use unapproved products and illegal methods that bring added health risks.
Unfortunately, over the entire history of cannabis cultivation, grow safety has only become a focus in the last few decades, largely because growers didn't have access to the research and safety information that other crops do (remember, it was/is illegal). Our understanding of how best to grow plants for smoking (as opposed to ornamentals or edibles/vegetables) continues to evolve.
In practice, there are grow methods that have since been proven to be unsafe, such as spraying certain pesticides, that were common among unlicensed (and even many licensed) grows that truly did create unsafe final product.
As we learn, we adapt. Sometimes by choice, sometimes by force. For licensed growers that hadn't already updated their practices, regulations forced their hands. Unlicensed growers aren't subject to these regulations.
It may seem logical to assume that not having to do something—like comply with safety standards—means that people (I.e. unlicensed growers) won't comply with safety standard.
There are many growers on and off the market that elect to take precautions that are not required of them in pursuit of the safest final product for their consumers. Food Safety is a prime example; this standard is not yet required in most legal cannabis grows, but tons of growers are electing to use products that meet Food Safety standards because they want a better product, regardless of if they have to. The same goes for many unlicensed hobby and boutique growers who simply want to put out a product that reflects their love for the craft and care for the consumer.
It benefits Big Cannabis most if you think that they're the safest because they're legal, which is far from the truth.
Legal grows are not the safest grows.
Let me repeat: Legal grows are not the safest grows.
Are many legal grows safe? Yes. Are all legal grows safe? No. The same holds true for unlicensed grows.
Hobby growers (unlicensed) like me invest in quality equipment and proper IPM, paying attention to the cleanliness of our efforts, as well as new research and regulations that, while not subject to them, can influence and guide our efforts in pursuit of that safe final product.
If you hear someone claim that the weed you or a friend grew is unsafe because you aren't a card-carrying MSO, make sure you ask them why and show them how that view may need an update.
Lie #2. Unlicensed weed is dirty.
They say: Unlicensed weed is covered in bugs, molds, and mildews.
If you've ever grown anything (literally anything) you know that bugs are part of most gardens. If you've grown vegetables outside, you may even have some experience with pathogens like Powdery Mildew that commonly cover squashes and melons after a cold snap. Like any crop, cannabis can be subject to these threats if left unaddressed.
Similar to Lie #1, regulations require licensed producers to pay attention to (and test for the presence of) pests and pathogens so that, in theory, the weed you're buying at a dispensary isn't "Dirty."
But this is where it gets dicey quick. Yes, licensed grows have to pass testing for microbials and contaminants. But there's a wide range of testing (and testing procedures), as well as the time of testing variable: Product testing pre-packaging versus randomized sampling of pre-packaged product that has already been on the shelf for a week, for example. And if that product was packaged with too much moisture before it was sealed up, there's a good chance you've got some mildew or mold growing in that pre-pack eighth you just bought.
It would shock most consumers to learn how dirty licensed grows (and their final products) can be, even in markets with regulations, which is why it is advantageous to paint unlicensed growers as the dirtiest option.
And it's not hard to do. There's plenty of bad apples that either don't know better or refuse to change "what's worked for years." Regulations do, in fact, help with those aspects of grows. But it all unlicensed weed isn't dirty simply because the news made an example of one such bad apple.
Personally, I won't buy pre-packaged weed from 99% of licensed grows because of how much mildew I've encountered, whereas I've bought pre-jarred weed on multiple occasions from off-market growers that was fantastic.
Not every grow nor every product is the same, licensed or not. There are great examples of growers that pay attention to moisture and pathogen prevention, and provide pre-packaged products that are clean and free of problems. But, in an industry whose quality standards vary widely among markets, it's important to look for commonalities that often lead to problems, like heat-sealed mylars often containing not-yet-dry weed.
Lie #3. Buying unlicensed weed supports organized crime.
When things are illegal, organizations involved in those things are committing crimes.
By definition, any MSO (or licensed producer of any scale) operating in a state-legal cannabis industry is participating in organized crime at the federal level while cannabis remains illegal.
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