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Marijuana: Civic Center's black market for pot is alive and well

Categories: Marijuana, Tech

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In late December, right before marijuana made its loud and proud entrance into the Colorado retail economy, I walked down to Civic Center Park to see if you could still buy a nickel bag off a stranger, as I did when I first moved to town a decade ago. I was not surprised to find that you could -- and was equally unshocked last week when I returned to the park and found the black market just as busy...if not more so.

There were a few key differences between my pot purchase in Civic Center in late December and my post-legalization trip there last week, though.

Significantly more people were both selling and purchasing weed on the north end of the park -- I actually had to wait in line while one yoga-pants-and-cruiser-riding blonde gal made her exchange before me -- but that could be attributed to the warm weather.

I also received notably less flower for my $5 than before. The first time around I got a little less than a gram for five bones; this time it was around a half gram. It's not like the dealers pull out a digi scale and measure out your product during the seven-second exchange, though; they simply pull it out of a baggie and sprinkle it in your palm. But even at $10 a gram, this is a third the price you would pay at many of our fancy new legal operations.

But does paying more get you a higher quality high? To find out, I took my just-purchased Civic Center weed to Denver Relief owner Kayvan Khalatbari, whom I profiled for a Westword cover story on ganjapreneurs earlier this month, to discuss how the quality of this black-market bud compared to the standards he sets for his own store.

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Kayvan Khalatbari
When I met up with Khalatbari at his home in the Arts District on Santa Fe, he was entertaining guests from Massachusetts who are opening a dispensary in that newly MMJ-legal state, and were in town checking out all the hyped-up extravaganja in Colorado. As Khalatbari broke up my black-market pot and observed it under a lamp, one of his guests informed me that earlier that day he'd purchased an eighth for $100 at Kine Mine in Idaho Springs.

Last month, when I spoke with store owners gearing up for the January 1 start of sales, they told me the aim was to keep legal prices in line with the black market in surrounding states. Though Khalatbari and I both have experience buying and selling pot in the Midwest (he's from Nebraska, I'm from Iowa), and while you could expect to pay around $55 to $65 an eighth there, that's still a damn sight cheaper than what his friend paid in Idaho Springs.

As Khalatbari gingerly loaded my illegally purchased weed into a bong, he and I reminisced about the atrocious quality of bud we used to sell in our home states. "It was this shitty Mexican brick-weed pressed into a pound smaller than your fist," he said, recalling how it would be cut into angular bricks that would fit inside of a tire to smuggle across the border. "They would press it into bricks while it was still wet, which would lock-in some really nasty shit."

When I would buy pot in Civic Center Park back in 2004, the quality wasn't any higher than what I used to get in Iowa. Today it's difficult to even find that kind of low-quality cannabis -- at least in Colorado.

After taking a rip off his bong, Khalatbari noted that the park pot was "better than what you'd find in Nebraska. There it would be considered 'kind-bud.' It's not a bad taste, kind of citrus-y." If that bud were to be sold medically at Denver Relief, he said, he'd price it around $25 an eighth, which is the lower scale price for an MMJ dispensary.

"It is a little harsh, which probably comes from an improper flush," he continued. "When you apply nutrients to the plant when it's growing -- things that help make it as large and lush as possible -- you want to stop for the last couple weeks while it's flowering and just run straight water through it to flush all of that out. A lot of people don't do that because they want to pump nutrients into the plant to make them as big as possible. A lot of people look at our grow and say, 'I could get more yield than that.' And we could, too, but we choose not to, because who wants to smoke something that has all of that in there?"

Khalatbari also suspected my Civic Center cannabis might have been dried too quickly, and possibly also had the keef shaved off to make hash with.

These were observations made by a marijuana aficionado with a very sophisticated pot palate -- the equivalent of a Great American Beer Festival patron facing a Corona Light. Khalatbari knows what shitty weed tastes like, but even with his criticisms he was reasonably impressed with my back-alley purchase. The park pot would get the job done, but was nothing to write home about.

Once the teeter-totter of legalized marijuana's supply and demand begins to balance itself, we'll likely see significant drops in the price of recreational cannabis. But for the time being, anyone selling decent quality eighths out of their kitchen will have a reasonable sales pitch for why their regulars should keep buying underground weed.

Follow me on Twitter at @JosiahMHesse.


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108 comments
Josh Bradley
Josh Bradley

Then where are you getting your info Karen? FOX? 9News? The Denver Post? Che is spot on.

Pam Stiffler
Pam Stiffler

With a freaking 40% tax in the stores, you find this surprising?

Cory Valencia
Cory Valencia

To be prefectly honest i feel that it was a lie from the government that we voted for the tax increases. At that sane time they were putting commercials saying how the money was going to schools and had people believing the bullshit.

Cory Valencia
Cory Valencia

No it doesn't surprise me, have you seen those recreational prices?

Jeff Williams
Jeff Williams

taxes are way to high. the cost is so high that black market doesn't even have a competitor. as far as the dude with the stupid children comment, well look at what said it go figure!!!

Daniel J. King IV
Daniel J. King IV

Democrats DON'T CARE ABOUT LAWS - that's why they're Democrats !!!

Randy E. Skunk
Randy E. Skunk

Nope not surprised. They try to stop private sales of home growing so until they the govt stops being stupid we will always rather homegrown buds. Especially when hundreds of thousands of people have no direct access to a dispo. We want it they way we the community set it up and that is free enterprise to all especially felons like me. Just cuz I'm a felon does not me I am 3rd class and I am entitled to be a biz owner just like the rest. Plus its us felons who grew the industry not uptight straight laced Yahoo's like the govt wants. They are all just bandwagon riders and have not earned their stripes to be in my fucking industry!

Noah Yetter
Noah Yetter

black markets are a standard response to rapacious taxation

Andrew Padbury
Andrew Padbury

Thanks Todd Ruhter, it is my first day here! I shall now make sure to pay tax on anything and everything considered a private sale. Especially garage sales and income from eBay. Thanks again for the tip Lemming

Phisher McFlintstone
Phisher McFlintstone

hell no it doesn't surprise me, they're charging 60 an 1/8th. What is this Chicago? You can get an 1/8th for 20 bucks if you have a card. It's bullshit. You may as well go to CCP and have some dude that gets it's with his card split the difference for you, you're still saving 20 bucks

Melvin Hamilton
Melvin Hamilton

Did you really think local people are going to pay 60 to 80 a eighth thru the dispensaries????? Them prices are a Joke!!! Some are even Raising the Medical usage also. If I didn't grow my own I wool I would stick to the black Market!!

Brian Martinez
Brian Martinez

Because after legalizing it to be taxed "like alcohol", voters were duped in the next election to tax pot EVEN MORE than alcohol. Read the fine print before you check the box folks.

Todd Ruhter
Todd Ruhter

Simple Andrew. Sales revenue with no taxes after a certain threshold is passed for gross sales makes it illegal! LOL. First day in the States?

Che Harness
Che Harness

Maybe if you buy from some crackhead in the park trying to make a quick buck for his fix. The marijuana "black market" is mostly made up of potheads that love their product, showing it off to their friends, and smoke it themselves.

Che Harness
Che Harness

Legal. Not over-regulated and still treated as a sin.

Stacy Christine
Stacy Christine

Not a surprise. Perhaps now that it's taxed when sold legally the DP will eventually care more about what goes on there. I imagine the lost tax revenue would be an incentive.

Karen Erickson
Karen Erickson

At least you know what you're getting from a dispensary. The black market can sell you garbage or moldy weed. And no, I'm not a user either way.

Becca Doyle
Becca Doyle

Oh...what was that everyone was saying about how making it legal would fix that? Pfff.

Che Harness
Che Harness

No. Not at all. The "black" market will remain alive and well as long as they can undercut stores prices with excessive taxes, filing fees, and regulation pretty much guaranteeing them a long life. Most stoners don't care about variety. The only way to end the untaxed market is to let capitalism do its job.

Mick Paul
Mick Paul

Denver Westword= Right-Wing rag in disguise. How are your advertising sales doing these days?

John Larson
John Larson

probably increasing the black market

Elizabeth Rowan
Elizabeth Rowan

No surprise here. The moonshine post pretty much nails it

John Vincent
John Vincent

If you are going to tax it that high it makes complete sense.

Michael Buddy Gallegos Jr
Michael Buddy Gallegos Jr

LIt's not gonna stop over night it'll take time for the reduction in bowl market sales to dwindle, let's calm down and get a grip people!

Jacob Johnson
Jacob Johnson

Not so long as the dispensaries are gouging their customers when they know the astronomical tax rate.

Marcus Netters
Marcus Netters

Some of us don't like High taxes to help a corrupt gov't.. and stupid children. #honest

KathleenChippi
KathleenChippi topcommenter

Denver Relief--leader's in cannabis corruption. 


I have always said, cannabis is an herb so it should be treated and taxed as an herb...I've had my ass raked over the coals and called a crazy bitch for protesting this entire (CO and worldwide) highjacking of what legalization is when it comes to the Tree of Life.


Who thinks opening a handful of 'special' storefronts with 3 days worth of inventory can miraculously accomplish what full on prohibition failed to do in 77 years, stop the unregulated cultivation, distribution
and sales of the safest therapeutic substance known to man, one of the most widely used herbs in the world that can be grown from seed or cutting in anyone's backyard and can heal the nations?


Prohibition = constraint.  Until the constraints are removed, prohibition lives on and so does the unregulated market.....because the majority of the 5 million residents of Colorado were excluded from the current 'master plan' the government, 'drug reform' groups (they play, you don't)  MPP/DPA/ASA/NCIA/SSDP/NORML, the lobbyists and the media are calling legalization.  How is the "end of prohibition" here when only 100? people out of 5 million can lawfully grow to sell cannabis? 


They might MARKET "like alcohol" to the world but you can only hold ownership in ONE liquor license...yeah that's how alcohol prohibition ended -- pretty much ANYONE could apply and one license per person to prevent monopolies from taking over.  Then the FREE MARKET dictated who survived and what sold....


I filed the ONLY complaint on the A64 SCAMpaign for lying to the public on the "like alcohol" mantra because that is all it was was a lie-I have Steve Fox (MPP), Lying Brian Vicente (A64, sensible?) and Mason Tvert (A64, safer) recorded at SSDP CU Dec 2010 convention admitting they came to CO in 2006 with one intent--pass recreational/tax and regulate like alcohol on the back of medical marijuana.  "medical was the stepping stone".


'They' (MPP/DPA/Soros) had planned all along to use the medical marijuana model they created in HB10-1284 in early 2010.  And that language was backed/pushed (after CASH payoffs witnessed by activists) by Democrats who promised to close down 80% of all the then successful, state and local licensed, tax paying dispensaries owned by Constitutionally protected caregivers--I would guess they numbered over 1,000. 


They discarded the word dispensary (because that was constitutionally protected) and they replaced it with the "Center"- no constitutional protection for a "center".  And IF you wanted to be a business (Center) you were NOT permitted to be a constitutionally protected caregiver.....and you paid heavy protection/extortion fee's and signed your power of attorney over to the CO Dept of Revenue and the IRS!  Every then successful ma and pa, every true caregiver, every human with a soul was cut out in 2010...


.....and now the only 'businesses' left standing are 'at peace' with 'state authorized' "one time conversion" (theft) of patients medicine to their 'new' retail businesses inventory--that is part of a monopoly- what we have is -the state (bought by the industry lobbyists) authorized millions?/hundreds of thousands? of dollars worth of cannabis to be stolen from patients, the state pre taxed (excise tax) the stolen cannabis and then it sold for 2, 3 and 4 times the MMJ retail prices on Dec 30, 2013 with a 40-50% additional tax --and now in 3 days the monopoly's 'legal'/regulated/taxed pot is gone...patients be damned, your medicine went home with some loser from NM who drove 8 hours to go on facial recognition video cameras linked directly to local and NSA law enforcement to buy pot and pay 40-50% tax that goes directly to the new fleet of Colorado POT COPS.


Where is the sanity or ratiocination in both Seattle and Denver voting pot as lowest priority for law enforcement years ago, to voting for "legalizing and ending prohibition" last year then equate that to needing 60-80 million a year to regulate the SAFEST THERAPEUTIC SUBSTANCE known to man more stringently than plutonium?  


The yearly budget for (DEADLY) liquor enforcement/licensing is 1.2 million, with 12 employee's and 14,000 plus licenses issued.  The yearly budget for the CBI for all violent crime, murder rape, etc is 12 million.  And the state auditor said the DoR blew over 10 million on licensing only 300 MMJ stores in 3 years and that is part of the reason she gave them an F as in FAILED as she pointed out they FAILED to enforce any one of their Orwellian rules in 3 years.  Sure looks like the protection/extortion licensing fee's bought those who could afford it and those who have lost their souls what they wanted...no enforcement for them and arrests, DUI's, child abuse charges, $1,000 "smell" tickets etc. for the rest of us....


How could lowest priority/legalization/ending prohibition of cannabis cost 60-80 million to regulate in Colorado?  How come only a handful of people in a state of 5 million get to own a cannabis business?


Why did DPA/MPP/NORML/NCIA/ASA/SSDP/sensible?/SAFER spends years rightfully arguing nationally that the US wasted way too much money and harmed way to many family's policing cannabis, only to now support 40%-85% taxation of the Tree Of LIFE in CO and WA, with $60-$80 million yearly headed to policing pot in one state and to applaud DEA raids and cannabis arrests in Colorado of everyone who didn't, couldn't, wouldn't, buy into their 'inner circle' of "professionals" (they love to call themselves this) who all seemed to come here in droves after many participated in the professions that collapsed the economy in 2008....you know: bankers/wall street/real estate/corp. 


How and why do "we the people", the gardeners of the prohibited herb for the last 77 years, allow the government and 1%er's and their prostitutes (lobbyists) to commercialize and bastardize the Tree of Life, the Peoples Plant? 


Jack Herer is turning in his grave as the stores sell cannabis in his namesake with Orwellian taxes and RFID chips.  I remember Jack reminding people, that cannabis prohibition has brought such negativity and caused such societal harm, that we the people could never be compensated fairly for damages by our government, so not having a tax would be the appropriate resolve.....but whatever happened to fair or just? 

Don Overit
Don Overit

no stick to the street the dispensary weed is crap and over priced

Mark Paco Slosky
Mark Paco Slosky

What the supposed black market price is at Civic Center Park is not relevant

Jordana Sturaro
Jordana Sturaro

We are the very first state to sell recreational marijuana, of course this is relevant.

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

Strangulation by taxation and regulation ensures a black market.

stuka1
stuka1


Mark Paco Slosky   7 hours ago

"Isn't it time to move on Westoword [SIC] to relevant stories to our state?"

If it's not relevant, then why the fuck are you coming back again and again and posting here for, dipshit?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Cognitive_Dissident  


          *** Regulation Works!! *** 


... the ignorant fucktards said so and VOTED for it!

stuka1
stuka1

@FreeTheWeedOH, look, the Jackass has yet another suckpuppy.  


As you can see, Mr. FAILbook has already returned at least once. 


YOUR Fail.


Now run along, Kevin Sabet is waiting for his rusty trombone.

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @Cognitive_Dissident 

Nope, that's your trolling at work. I mean the market not approved by the masters with whom you're enamored: the state, who  created the systematic racism to which my comment that you've distorted referred.

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @Cognitive_Dissident 

Spoken like a complete fucking asshole who chooses to remove words from a sentence to change its meaning for trolling purposes, fuckwad!

Without laws against it, there is no black market and no "war on drugs" that's killing and endangering people. HTFH!

More to the point, since the quote is yours, (it sure the fuck isn't mine) that makes you the ignorant fuckwit.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Cognitive_Dissident  "the black market ...[is] a danger to everyone."


Spoken like an ignorant fuckwit, or a paid DEA prohibitionist shill.



Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @Cognitive_Dissident 

Be careful when you collectivize. "They" is not every cannabis consumer.

Further, the black market and law enforcement attempts to stop it are a danger to everyone.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Cognitive_Dissident


Hence they DESERVE to SUFFER the FULL PAIN and penalty of the idiotic laws, regulations, restrictions and taxes THEY PROMOTED and VOTED FOR !!


Now the Greedy Big $$ Dispensary Cartels and the Politicians they've bribed are ATTACKING PRIVATE Patients / Caregivers -- those same brain-dead patients and caregivers who were fucking stupid enough to support A64.


Those lowlife shitsucking scumbags are now shamelessly referring to the rights granted by Amendment 20 via the Colorado Constitution as "A LOOPHOLE" that needs to be closed !!


http://www.denverpost.com/marijuana/ci_24908531/marijuana-loophole-colorado-under-scrutiny


REAP what ye sow, you pig-ignorant illiterate addle-brained bong-sucking simpletons !!


And thank the pimps and propagandists at Wasteword for helping make it all possible.



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