Marijuana use and sales were legal up to the 20th century. Starting from 1916 U.S. states started banning the use of cannabis and in 1937 the Marijuana Tax Act made Marijuana illegal in the US.
Europe and other countries around the world followed suit and criminalized sales and use of weed in the second and third quarter of the century.
However, the tide is shifting with more countries and most U.S. states decriminalizing the use and sale of cannabis. This came after realizing the potential medical use and very little negative effects on health. And of course the ability to massively tax the sales was attracted the legalization.
Cannabis legalisation in U.S. and Canada
Canada has legalized the recreational use and sale of weed. Despite it being legal in the whole country, it is very strictly regulated and only licensed dispensaries can sell weed. Cannabis advertising also has very strict guidelines to stop companies from making it look desirable.
Many U.S. states have decriminalized and made recreational use of cannabis legal. Currently more than 31 states have decreminalized the the plant. More and more states are opening up to decriminalizing weed as 91% of adult Americans believe cannabis should be legal. With all the support the legalization are getting and the tax opportunities more states are expected to follow. Soon cannabis will become widely available to everyone in the US.
Situation in Europe
The majority of European countries have legalized medical marijuana use, but the laws vary from country to country. In Germany, one of the largest medical marijuana markets in Europe, medical use of marijuana is legal. On the other hand, recreational marijuana possession, cultivation, and sale is illegal. It won’t get you prosecuted, since it is decriminalized, but you may get a small fine. It is important to always check local laws if you are planning to travel while carrying any marijuana. Some countries like Hungary, still count both medical and recreational cannabis as illegal.
Uncertain times for Dark Web sales
With marijuana legalization booming around the world it was natural to think that dark web cannabis sales would plummet. Since people have easier access to cannabis there is no need for people to risk using the dark-net. While the statement is truthful, it isn’t that straightforward.
According to a Chainalysis report, total dark web sales have skyrocketed in 2019 up to $790 million, that’s a 70% increase from 2018. They have also estimated to hit $1 billion in 2020, however, there’s no accurate data yet. The most commonly sold product on the dark-net is cannabis.
So if people can buy weed legally why are they turning to the dark web?
COVID-19 effect on Dark Web sales
When the pandemic hit we have seen people stock up on toilet paper, canned tomatoes, and of course weed. Global shortages of various products left empty shelves at the grocery stores, markets, and marijuana dispensaries too. Many people have been seen lining up to stock up on cannabis for the pandemic. This created shortages and led to an increase in dark web sales. According to a study by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), dark web sales of marijuana have spiked by 25-30% in the first three months of 2020.
Despite the legal supply drying out dark web marijuana prices seemed to slightly drop. Sellers started giving discounts not only to bulk orders but also for smaller amounts. A lot of suppliers also reduced minimum orders from 10g to 3.5g or even 1g.
Interestingly, large sales have dropped significantly. This was most likely direct causation of the COVID-19 pandemic and global lockdowns. With more and more people staying at home it was harder for offline resellers to push the product thus reducing the large orders demand on the dark web.
It was thought that when cannabis would be legalized everyone would be able to open a shop and sell their products. However, legal cannabis markets all over the world are usually captured by several giant companies in the country. Most of the time they buy out smaller cannabis companies and become huge corporate players that even enter the stock market.
The expensive legal cannabis licenses by the governments are also a huge roadblock to new players. In a vice interview with a seller on EverGreenTea, he said growers have a very hard time getting a good price on their product. Being a small producer with not enough revenue to get a legal license you will usually turn to the dark web.
While the big corporations can increase the price of cannabis sold in shops by 40-50%, because of tax, smaller growers have to compete on the dark web or sell for extremely low prices to dispensaries.
The future of the Dark Web cannabis market
Looking at the Fortune Business Insight projections the total global cannabis market should reach $97.35 billion by 2026. This is being caused by relaxed regulations all around the world and a more widespread awareness among consumers. More people are becoming aware of the medical benefits of cannabis and the minuscule negative effects on society.
The growing cannabis market means more and more people are getting exposed to weed which is a good trend for the dark web markets. According to a 2011-2015 dark web data study, there is a correlation between interest in dark web usage and increased cannabis use in the U.S.
This suggests the legalization of weed promotes the dark-web since a bigger pool of consumers will bring a higher number of customers. There will always be people looking for cheaper prices, easier access. Getting your weed by mail is a better choice for many, and let’s not forget the underage consumers. Most teenagers are extremely tech-savvy and can easily access dark web markets.
Finally, the rapid growth of cryptocurrency has sparked a huge interest in the new way of paying for services and goods. Increased interest in this technology allowed dark web markets to be available to even more consumers.
The world is on a very quick pace to decriminalize or even legalize weed in most countries. In the coming decade, we should see weed legalized in most European countries and U.S. states. The booming cannabis market is gaining new consumers every day. This has also resulted in more dark-net sales.
It is obvious that the overall Illegal drug markets might slowly shrink, however, the increased exposure to cannabis through legalization is still introducing a new influx of consumers to the dark web.
Finally, the slowly increasing cryptocurrency adoption is teaching people another way to buy services and goods online. This in turn introduces more people to illegal markets too.