Think Twice Before Buying Street Cannabis! Protect Your Health

by | May 15, 2024 | Cannabis Safety

Think Twice Before Buying Street Cannabis Protect Your Health

Many Americans know someone who can buy cannabis from “someone they know.” Before legalization, marijuana use meant taking great legal risks to purchase cannabis flower. Today, other products like edibles and vapes have become readily available from local dealers.

The fact is that medical cannabis dispensaries are the safest source of regulated cannabis products. In some states, recreational cannabis is also available through licensed dispensaries. The Drug Enforcement Administration’s recent approval to make cannabis a Schedule III drug may expand the availability of cannabis products through interstate commerce.

Whether you use medical marijuana or engage in recreational cannabis use, you always have two options to source products: legally through dispensaries or illegally through the illicit drug market. Cannabis research tells us that “street weed” can have heavy metals, mold, bacteria, and other pathogens that can cause harm and adverse effects.

Why Do Some People Bypass Licensed Dispensaries to Purchase Cannabis Illegally?

With so many dispensaries available, why do some people “roll the dice” and choose to buy cannabis from illegal sources? Studies suggest that products provided outside of the quality assurance and regulatory controls of licensed dispensaries can be hazardous to human health.

In states where medical and recreational use of cannabis are not legalized, the only source of accessing cannabis products is illicit. That means purchasing flower or products outside of a licensed dispensary. For some people, it is their only choice and one that comes with a great deal of legal risk.

Even in a state where medical and recreational marijuana are legalized, you can pay a lot for products. That is due to excise taxes that are tacked on to recreational cannabis purchases. In some states, that extra tax can be 20% or higher, added in addition to the retail tax charged for each product.

Sometimes, purchasing cannabis through illicit means is less expensive. For others, favorite strains of cannabis may not be readily available at local licensed dispensaries. In some cases, individuals may want higher-potency cannabis products that dispensaries are prohibited from selling due to state regulatory restrictions.

medical cannabis dispensary massachusetts

States Where Cannabis Use Has Not Been Legalized

Almost every state in America has medical cannabis regulations and laws in place for registered patients, and some have legalized adult use or recreational marijuana. Other states have legalized low-THC products for medicinal use.

However, there are still some jurisdictions where it is illegal to use cannabis for any purpose:

  • Idaho
  • Wyoming
  • North Carolina

While it has been a federal-level offense to transport cannabis products over state lines, the flow of cannabis products from areas where it is legal to purchase happens every day. Some people who cannot access cannabis from licensed dispensaries may also rely on hemp-derived products like Delta-THC, HHC, and THCA-infused edibles or hemp flower.

Hemp-Derived Delt-THC Alternatives May Be Banned Or Strictly Regulated Soon

However, states like Texas want to ban Delta-THC and other hemp-derived cannabinoid products from the shelves. The 2018 Farm Bill provided a federal legal status to any product made from agricultural hemp (or at least, that is how the legislation was interpreted).

Title X of the 2018 Farm Bill inadvertently gave Delta-8 THC and other hemp-derived intoxicating cannabinoids federal legal status. The intention was to legalize cannabidiol products with 0.30% THC or less, but the ambiguity of the language in the Farm Bill created a loophole, which allowed Delta-THC and similar products to flourish on the retail market.

Despite the fact that the products do cause impairment and have much higher potency levels. In July of 2023, fifteen states in America had banned Delta-THC, while twelve states legalized hemp-derived cannabinoid products.

The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) expired on September 30, 2023. However, propagation and harvesting have been extended until September 30, 2024. A revised Farm Bill is expected in May 2024, which may enforce a maximum of 0.30% THC content in hemp products. In this case, Delta-THC products may no longer be legal for retailers (such as smoke shops or convenience stores) to sell.

dangers of buying street weed

Comparing Street Cannabis to Dispensary Products

Often, products that are available in a dispensary are more expensive than purchasing illegal cannabis from “someone you know.” That is because illicit drug providers do not have to take all the steps required for quality assurance and safety, as dispensaries are required to do by law.

Dispensaries are required to document all steps of the quality assurance process to remain in compliance with state cannabis laws.

Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)

Adhering to GMP standards ensures that every stage of cannabis cultivation, processing, and production is performed in a regulated and consistent manner. Key elements include maintaining sanitary conditions, keeping facilities clean, adequately training staff, thorough record-keeping, and implementing robust quality assurance measures.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Crafting and enforcing SOPs guarantees uniformity and adherence to established protocols. These procedures encompass all facets of production, such as cultivation practices, extraction processes, product formulation, and packaging and labeling guidelines.

Quality Assurance Testing

Conducting thorough testing for potency, terpene profiles, pesticides, residual solvents, heavy metals, and microbial contaminants is a vital part of quality control. This testing ensures that products are safe and meet quality standards before they are made available to consumers.

Batch Tracking and Documentation

Recording and tracking the entire production journey, from cultivation to distribution, is crucial for traceability and quality assurance. This involves logging batch numbers, ingredient details, manufacturing dates, and testing outcomes for each product.

Supplier Qualification and Verification

Implementing stringent processes for qualifying suppliers ensures that all raw materials, including cannabis biomass and other ingredients, adhere to specified quality standards. This includes verifying certificates of analysis (COAs) and performing supplier audits as necessary.

Product Sampling and Analysis

Conducting random sampling and analysis of products ensures the consistency and quality of cannabis items. This process helps detect any deviations or compliance issues that need to be resolved.

Prices for legal cannabis products will always be slightly more expensive because of the quality assurance procedures required by state laws. Saving money matters, but the safest products (with the lowest risk of adverse effects) are available at your local licensed cannabis dispensaries.

Understanding the Risks of Street Cannabis

Purchasing illegal or street cannabis carries significant risks due to the lack of regulation and quality control. One of the primary concerns is contamination.

Street cannabis often contains harmful substances, including pesticides, mold, and bacteria, which can pose serious health risks. These contaminants are not typically screened out, as illicit growers are not held to the same (or any) standards as licensed cannabis producers.

The Dangers of Synthetic Additives in Street Cannabis

Moreover, illegal cannabis may be adulterated with other substances to increase weight or enhance its effects, making it even more dangerous. Examples include synthetic cannabinoids, which can cause severe and unpredictable health reactions, and other drugs, such as fentanyl, which can be lethal even in small amounts.

Cancer-Causing Chemicals

Carcinogens are another major concern with street cannabis. Without proper regulation, there is a higher likelihood of the presence of carcinogenic chemicals. These can come from pesticides, mold, or the methods used to cultivate and cure the cannabis. Long-term exposure to such carcinogens increases the risk of developing cancers and other serious health conditions.

Pathogen and Pesticide Contamination

Inhalation of contaminants can lead to respiratory issues. Mold and mildew, common in poorly processed cannabis, can cause infections, particularly in individuals with weakened immune systems. Pesticides can lead to chronic poisoning, manifesting as neurological disorders, endocrine disruption, and other long-term health problems.

The inconsistency in potency is also a risk. Street cannabis often has unpredictable levels of THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, which can lead to overdosing and acute psychological effects such as paranoia, anxiety, and psychosis.

Consuming street cannabis exposes users to numerous health risks due to potential contamination with harmful substances, the presence of carcinogens, and inconsistent potency. These risks underscore the importance of purchasing cannabis from regulated and reputable sources.

cannabis arrests Massachusetts

Legal Implications of Purchasing Street Cannabis

If you are a registered patient with a medical card, purchasing medical cannabis products is as easy as driving to your favorite local dispensary. Patients must comply with state laws regarding the quantity of cannabis they possess; statewide purchases are tracked to enforce purchase limits.

If you prefer smoking marijuana, you may be wondering how much different cannabis flower could be when purchased outside a licensed dispensary. A bud is a bud, right? The truth is that illegal sources can spray additional compounds onto cannabis buds to make it heavier (since it is sold by the ounce).

However, the health hazards of unregulated weed are just one risk you face when you purchase cannabis outside of a licensed dispensary. The legal consequences for purchasing or possessing black market cannabis can range from a misdemeanor and a fine to a felony offense, with mandatory incarceration.

Legal Consequences for Federal Cannabis Possession

Possessing cannabis on federal land can lead to serious legal consequences, as federal law still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance, regardless of state laws that may legalize or decriminalize its use. Here are the potential legal repercussions:

  1. Criminal Charges: If caught with cannabis on federal land, you could face criminal charges. This can range from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the amount of cannabis in possession and any prior offenses. A first offense for possession of a small amount might result in a misdemeanor charge, which can carry penalties such as fines and up to one year in prison.
  2. Fines and Imprisonment: Federal penalties for simple possession can include a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail term of up to one year for a first offense. Subsequent offenses can lead to harsher penalties, including higher fines and longer imprisonment terms. For larger quantities, charges can escalate to intent to distribute, resulting in more severe penalties.
  3. Probation and Parole: Convictions for cannabis possession on federal land might lead to probation, where the individual must comply with various conditions such as regular drug testing, attendance at substance abuse counseling, and avoiding further legal trouble. Violating probation terms can result in additional penalties, including imprisonment.
  4. Impact on Employment and Federal Benefits: A federal drug conviction can have long-lasting effects on employment opportunities, as it may appear on background checks. Individuals convicted of drug offenses can also be barred from receiving certain federal benefits, including federal student loans, grants, and subsidized housing.

Civil penalties can be imposed in addition to criminal charges. These can include the seizure of property associated with the offense, such as vehicles or money believed to be connected to the illegal activity. A federal drug conviction can also impact your ability to travel internationally, as some countries deny entry to individuals with certain types of criminal records.

State Cannabis Possession Legal Risks

The legal consequences of being caught possessing cannabis illegally under state laws vary significantly depending on the state and the amount of cannabis involved. Here are some standard legal repercussions:

  1. Misdemeanor Charges: In many states, possessing a small amount of cannabis for personal use is considered a misdemeanor. Penalties can include fines, community service, probation, and short jail terms. For instance, first-time offenders might face fines ranging from $100 to $1,000 and possible jail time of up to a year.
  2. Felony Charges: Possessing larger quantities of cannabis can lead to felony charges, which carry much harsher penalties. Felony possession can result in significant fines, longer prison sentences (often exceeding one year), and a permanent criminal record. For example, States like Texas and Georgia have stringent laws where possession of larger amounts can quickly escalate to felony charges.
  3. Diversion Programs: Some states offer diversion programs for first-time offenders, which can lead to reduced charges or the dismissal of charges upon successful completion of the program. These programs often include drug education classes, community service, and regular drug testing.
  4. Probation: Instead of jail time, courts may impose probation for cannabis possession. Conditions of probation typically include staying drug-free, attending counseling or educational programs, regular check-ins with a probation officer, and avoiding further legal trouble. Violating probation terms can result in additional penalties, including imprisonment.
  5. Civil Fines: Some states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis, treating it more like a traffic violation than a criminal offense. Offenders might face civil fines without the risk of jail time. For example, in states like California and New York, possessing small amounts of cannabis results in a fine rather than a criminal charge.
  6. Loss of Driving Privileges: Convictions for cannabis possession can lead to the suspension or revocation of driving licenses in some states. This is particularly common in states with zero-tolerance policies for drug offenses.
  7. Impact on Employment and Housing: A conviction for cannabis possession can negatively affect job prospects and housing opportunities. Many employers and landlords conduct background checks, and a drug conviction can be a significant disadvantage.
  8. Ineligibility for Federal Benefits: Similar to federal law, state convictions for drug offenses can lead to ineligibility for certain state benefits, such as state-funded educational grants or public housing.

The specific consequences depend on the state’s legal framework, the amount of cannabis involved, the offender’s prior criminal record, and the circumstances of the arrest. To avoid these potential legal repercussions, it is important to be aware of and comply with state laws regarding cannabis possession.

Protect Your Health: Choose Safe and Legal Cannabis Sources

Everyone should purchase cannabis exclusively from licensed dispensaries where permitted by law, as these establishments ensure product safety and quality. Unlike black market sources, licensed dispensaries adhere to stringent regulations, including rigorous testing for contaminants such as pesticides, mold, and heavy metals, ensuring that the products are safe for consumption.

Additionally, buying from illegal sources not only poses significant health risks due to the lack of quality control but also exposes individuals to severe legal consequences. Purchasing cannabis from licensed dispensaries is the responsible choice for both personal health and legal safety.

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