California is launching a new campaign to combat black market cannabis and support the legal marijuana industry.
The campaign, dubbed “Get #weedwise,” is meant to encourage cannabis consumers to buy their marijuana from licensed dispensaries.
“This public education campaign is the first to focus on educating consumers about the differences between cannabis purchased from licensed retailers and that from illegal businesses,” said Lori Ajax, Chief of the Bureau of Cannabis Control.
Consumer safety is a big part of the campaign since unlicensed cannabis doesn’t undergo the same safety and quality control process as licensed cannabis retailers. Illegal cannabis is often tainted by heavy metals, mold, pesticides, and even human waste. Unlicensed grows regularly use banned or restricted pesticides, and it’s led to increased pollution and toxic waste.
U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar, who has been a lawyer on multiple marijuana-related environmental damage cases, said many of these illegal grows “are like superfund sites.”
“We believe that this campaign will directly impact consumer safety by clarifying that only cannabis purchased from licensed retailers has met the state’s safety standards, while sending a clear message to unlicensed businesses that they need to get licensed or shut down,” said Ajax.
The black market is a huge problem in California that’s undermining the regulated cannabis market and costing the state millions of dollars in lost tax revenue. According to New Frontier Data, as much as 80% of the cannabis sold in the state comes from the black market. The company estimated that California’s black market marijuana is worth $3.7 billion, more than four times the size of the legal cannabis market.
“We are going to start having a more aggressive enforcement stance to come after the illegal market,” said Ajax.
The two-year campaign will include $113 million in state funds to enforce state marijuana laws, crack down on illegal cannabis operations, and encourage unlicensed businesses to enter the regulated market. California will spend an initial $1.7 million on a series of ads on social media and billboards to encourage cannabis consumers to check if a shop is licensed at CApotcheck.com.