SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Despite the fact that marijuana is legal here in Massachusetts, illegal sales remain strong and dangerous. Like many things, the lower cost of illegal marijuana is a major reason illicit sales continue to flourish in the state.
Marijuana dispensaries are located all over Massachusetts, but despite that, just this week, a man was arrested for trafficking marijuana after a significant growing operation was found in a South Hadley home.
Springfield police showed 22News just part of the haul from a recent bust. So what’s driving the sales of black market marijuana? Capt. Brian Keenan the Commanding Officer of the Firearms Investigations Unit in Springfield explained, “Marijuana has become much more socially acceptable and as with any product, people buy the lowest priced product they can find. Unfortunately, street marijuana is significantly less expensive than dispensary marijuana.”
Last year, an estimated 68 percent of marijuana sales took place outside the state regulated market. However, according to an international cannabis policy study, residents of western Massachusetts were significantly more likely to purchase their products from legal stores than residents from other parts of the state. Marijuana users 22News spoke to noted the benefits of buying weed legally.
Xopher Walters from Agawam said, “The convenience factor of being able to walk in and just show my ID because I’m old enough, and buy what I need, when I need it is good for me.”
Another person told 22News, “It’s more less of a risk [to buy illegally]. When you get stuff off the street, you don’t know where it comes from, you don’t know if they put something in it.”
In addition to the risk of contamination with more serious drugs, according to Hampden County District Attorney spokesperson Jim Leydon, black market sales have become a serious public safety issue and several homicides are due illegal marijuana sales.
Both Springfield police and the Hampden DA’s office say that since transactions are done in cash, there are many robberies and home invasions tied to the illicit trade.