Legitimately grown cannabis is being shipped out of California with knowledge of state officials, a lawsuit alleges. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP)
The outlaw’s Bordeaux, California cannabis has for decades fetched a premium price—and serious profit—for anyone with the chutzpah to smuggle pounds out-of-state. Marijuana legalization has not changed this.
Jars featuring the familiar packaging of the West Coast’s most-hyped brands line the shelves of high-end cannabis speakeasies in New York City. How did they get there? Same as it ever was—someone broke the law—but in the legalization era, there’s a twist.
Rule-breakers are gaming California’s supposedly strict “track-and-trace” system to sell “untold millions of pounds” of legally grown cannabis on the illicit market, a recent lawsuit alleges.
And state cannabis industry regulators, fully aware of the cannabis industry’s “worst kept secret,” aren’t bothering to do anything about it, “threatening the integrity” of the entire marijuana legalization experiment in the process, according to the suit.
“I’m really putting myself out there, but when you hear about it in every corner of the industry, it’s time to speak up,” said Elliot Lewis, the outspoken Long Beach, Calif.-based CEO of Catalyst Cannabis Company.
Lewis filed the lawsuit Sept. 15 against the state Department of Cannabis Control after hearing of the scheme “about a year and a half ago” and watching illicit operators rake in profits while legitimate cannabis businesses suffered in the meantime, he said in an interview Monday.
And the problem is so widespread and well known, he added.
“I would say I have had 20 conversations about burner distributions with knowledgeable people in the industry,” he said.
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