The New Jersey cannabis black market and legacy operators are thriving while red tape and towns oppose them.
Despite fears and attempts to rein them in, the New Jersey cannabis legacy operators underground black market of small businesspeople, many of them minorities and/or women, are thriving.
Legacy Operators Flourishing
The State can’t actually stop the entire cannabis legacy black market. It’s too big and too lucrative. There certainly have been crackdowns on legacy operators throughout New Jersey. But sometimes, that’s the price of doing business.
“We’re faster than you. We’re smarter than you and we’re more creative than you,” one North Jersey legacy operator said. “Get the fuck out of the way.”
In South Jersey, the New Jersey cannabis legacy market is at home in a country setting, while in North Jersey, it’s often in an urban setting with more Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs. Many women participate in both types.
“The industry is here. It’s not like it’s not here. We’ve always been here. It’s been here my entire life,” a North Jersey legacy operator said. “You’re attacking a market that already exists. Why are you in the way? I’m right under your nose doing it.”
“Everybody’s that in the illegal market wants to pay their taxes more than the person that just has a regular job or business. They want to come out of the dark. But they’re terrified,” another North Jersey legacy operator added.
Quality Established Market
With their tranquil atmosphere and music, some legacy markets have the air of a bake sale. At a legacy market in Central Jersey, an enterprising salesman offered $100 for an ounce. That would be about a quarter of the current price for legal weed New Jersey .
“The farmers have the most pride. There’s no trying to give you mildew. There’s nobody trying to give you bad weed,” a North Jersey legacy operator said. “Some people might be like, “that’s some low-end man”
“People in the illegal market will tell you that’s some low-end weed. Hey, that’s some shit that came off the low end. And this is my mids (middle quality). And these are my high ends. Most people did that. And the people go yes or no.”
Range of Products on the Black Market
They continue to sell a range of products. That includes a variety of stronger products like concentrates and nano-infused thc concoctions, along a never-ending portfolio of different cannabis strains, one better than the next. There are also many edibles, including baked goods and infused honeys, often sold by the people who made it themselves. Here, you can actually, see, touch, smell and get honest feedback on the products before buying. There is so much to choose from. No one is butt hurt if you don’t buy from them.
The NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) has promised there will eventually be edibles. But they have not even given a possible date when they will open. Concentrates are $95 a gram for live resin. For comparison, live resin on the black/gray market is under $30, or less if you buy several grams.
One recent New Jersey cannabis black market even featured the potent Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), which is great for patients.
Many products are sourced out from California and come with warning labels and note the strength of their products. Some prominent items like Punch Bars come in a great variety of chocolates like Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt, cherry chocolate, orange chocolate and then there are dozens of other brands as well. They are available at a range of weed market pop-ups.
“They respect their art so much. I’ve been selling their shit for almost 15 years,” the North Jersey legacy operator said of Punch Bars. He noted people have developed brand loyalty to Punch Bars. (Heady NJ is not advocating for these products specifically).
Many legacy pharmacists also try to recommend strains to treat different issues. The GMO strain was recommended for inflammation, for example.
Storefronts Sell Weed
In addition to pop-up black markets for cannabis, a wide range of smoke shops, glass shops, and exotic snacks shops along with other types of retail shops are also selling weed, some more blatantly than others. Some smoke shops sell weed in towns that won’t allow legal dispensaries. Yet the townships, and local police let these shops thrive. This is truly a strange time.
Most of the towns where New Jersey cannabis markets are held do not bust them. Sometimes the penalties after getting busted are not as harsh as you would imagine depending on the town. Last year, weed arrests in New Jersey were down significantly.
In the movie Pineapple Express, you have the lovable cannabis dealer Saul Silver versus the violent Ted Jones, who corrupts the police and kills a man. Many in New Jersey want Sauls to get licenses and open. Unfortunately, many think the Sauls are Ted or Scarface.
A North Jersey legacy operator said many in cannabis aren’t like Scarface. He explained the heroin and cocaine industries are much more lucrative than cannabis. Therefore, organized crime rarely gets involved in cannabis.
In New York City, the high number of legacy operators has led to a crackdown.
Legacy to Legal Problems
Some legacy operators in the New Jersey cannabis black market going legit are succeeding. But they are few and far between.
“It’s really hard, realistically and practically, for these legacy operators to make a clean break. It’s very hard to walk through legacy land, and ya know, open,” attorney Duncan Delano said.
He has many legacy operators in the black market as clients.
“It’s probably an unrealistic expectation. How do they fund their regulated operation and start-up without continuing to make ends meet in the legacy market?” Duncan asked rhetorically.
The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) has been promoting a “legacy to legal path” with various degrees of success. They have given out hundreds of conditional licenses. But a small amount has applied for the conversion necessary to open so far. A lot of New Jersey conditional license winners need help.
Cannabis Homegrow and the Industry
A North Jersey legacy operator was very critical of the lack of cannabis homegrow in New Jersey.
He said it should be comparable to growing tomatoes. But no one ever had a good Saturday night due to tomatoes.
“Nobody’s going to kill the weed industry. If you were really part of the weed game, you would let people grow. Do you know why? They would know how hard it is. And they would RUN to the dispensary and pay whatever for it,” he said. “Let everybody grow.”
A North Jersey legacy operator said a noted legacy operator gave out 1,000 baby cannabis plants or clones to people, and about 900 probably died.
“Fifty of them are probably struggling. Maybe 2 get weed out of it,” he figured.