The green industry tends to forget that not everyone in the United States has safe, legal access to cannabis.
A recent report from cannabis data tech company BDSA finds that half (50 percent) of the American population still relies on the black market for cannabis products. For some of these consumers left to swim in the pit of prohibition, the only viable solution is purchasing hemp-derived CBD and Delta-8 products from their neighborhood convenience stores and gas stations.
It’s not that they wouldn’t prefer to get their hands on products that have been proven safe and effective through extensive laboratory testing, but that’s just not guaranteed in areas of prohibition.
Even in legal markets, many cannabis consumers continue to frequent illicit sources to escape the wrath of high taxes. Millions of consumers still rely on street dealers for intoxicating cannabis strains. Their attitude is that if the unlicensed pot saves them money, what’s the difference? Weed is a weed, and with no real risk of going to jail for it anymore, does the source really matter?
The consumer should be kept apprised of the repercussions associated with consuming untested cannabis. And there are many. These products have been proven time and again to be ineffective (because who knows what’s really in some of that stuff anyway) and pose significant health risks.
For years now, poorly made CBD oil, vape cartridges, and synthetics have plagued the legal and illicit markets, making people ill. The bogus CBD sold all over the country has caused a number of consumers to experience “altered mental status, seizures, confusion, loss of consciousness, and hallucinations,” according to a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Regardless of the continued threat, the consumer carries on haphazardly. Although recent reports suggest that cannabis users are becoming “more knowledgeable about cannabis products and use,” many canna buyers are oblivious to the importance of lab testing. Some don’t realize the cannabis products purchased from a 7-Eleven are any different than what they could get at a licensed dispensary. Many others don’t care. They’ve chalked up the narrative surrounding the potential health risks of illicit cannabis as propaganda designed to protect the profits of the cannabis industry. Cannabis is all-natural, after all, so how could it cause harm? Some consumers might even ask: Is untested cannabis really that dangerous? Many of these folks have been buying weed illegally for years, and it hasn’t killed them yet. So why should they care?
Well, the consumer is supposed to be smarter now, making more informed, intelligent decisions about what they’re putting into their bodies. An article published in Forbes shows that nearly 60 percent of cannabis consumers consider themselves “health conscious.” None of these folks would ever dare ingest food or over-the-counter medications that could potentially cause them to experience health problems. So, why is cannabis safety viewed with such contempt?
Lab testing is often considered a new, perhaps unnecessary, step in the distribution of legal cannabis. Nobody cared whether pot was tested for toxins until state governments made it part of their regulatory systems. Still, most of the labeling on legal products doesn’t even put an emphasis on safety. They list only the THC and CBD percentages required by law. We could do a lot more.
But we’re up against a great deal of resistance. Lab testing isn’t always supported by everyone in the cannabis industry. There have been countless reports of cannabis manufacturers shopping for unscrupulous labs to give them a passing grade because they know their products won’t otherwise meet regulatory approval. Fortunately, the good seeds of the cannabis industry are eager to help the naysayers see the light and promote an honorable system. Part of the job is educating the consumer and others in the industry to see the value of transparency.
The trick is getting cannabis consumers to adopt a new way of thinking. It’s not just high taxes running up the cost of green products at the dispensary. They are ultimately paying for peace of mind.
The cannabis plant is a sponge during the cultivation process, absorbing every substance (good and bad) it is exposed to along the way. Although it collects vital nutrients, it also takes in heavy metals from the soil and pesticides commonly used by illicit growers. None of which is good.
The effects of heavy metals alone are terrifying. They infiltrate human organs, causing gastrointestinal and kidney dysfunction, nervous system disorders, skin lesions, vascular damage, immune system dysfunction, birth defects, and cancer. Not enough of a deterrent? Well, toss in the pesticides, which have adverse reactions such as nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, and even death, and all of a sudden, the cannabis plant, one of the safest drugs in the world, isn’t so safe anymore. Let’s face it; no consumer would knowingly ingest a product tainted with these chemicals. Although the weed a consumer might purchase from a street dealer will save them a few bucks, it might just as easily cause them harm. There is security in procuring legal pot.
Sure, the consumer has indeed been buying and consuming cannabis from the black market for decades. Although these people might believe this hasn’t caused them any ills, the truth of the matter is that we just don’t know. A recent study from the University of Florida Division of Cardiovascular Medicine Studies shows that soil pollutants such as heavy metals and pesticides may contribute to heart disease. Federal studies show pesticide exposure can lead to some cancers, “particularly brain, prostate, and kidney cancers, as well as NHL and leukemia.” All of these chemicals are prevalent and unregulated in the illicit sector. So, the chances of the consumer ingesting life-threatening chemicals are exponential. We can easily surmise, given the research, that some of the cancer cases and other health woes that cannabis consumers have experienced over the years can be directly attributed to consuming toxic chemicals from black-market marijuana.
Although millions of consumers can now protect themselves against these hazards by purchasing legal weed, too many are hyper-focused on the ticket price rather than their health. It’ll take years of education to change their minds. But it’s doable if the industry gets on the same page. After all, not too many people these days buy black market alcohol, no matter how much money they could save. Why not? They don’t want to go blind or drop dead. The alcohol consumer is more than happy to spend the extra money on a product from a licensed retailer they know and trust. This is a simple concept, and it’s one the cannabis industry must draw inspiration from if it expects the consumer to embrace testing as part of the deal once cannabis becomes legal in more parts of the country. So, let your customers know: Yes, untested cannabis is that dangerous.