New York City’s illicit market illustrates the sophistication of illegal operators and the competition they are to licensed operators. A plethora of products - concentrates, vape pens, edibles, and flower - all unregulated of course, are easily available in New York City’s $2bn cannabis market through a network of dealers, couriers, and online services, and more. The illicit market has dedicated clientele, develops unique products (see the chocolate drizzled pretzel sandwiches), and presents a serious challenge to legal operators everywhere.
The vape crisis was difficult even for legal extract producers as consumers retreated from the vape category. However, education campaigns as well as the publication of federal and state research has led to a rebound in sales of vape products. The consensus view is clear - illegal vapes are the threat, not legal, regulated vape products. Following this crisis, it is our view that consumers will begin to turn to licensed, regulated safe cannabis products.
California is contemplating an overhaul of how it regulates cannabis. A licensed operator’s cost of compliance is passed on to customers, resulting in a huge discrepancy between the price of legal and illegal cannabis product. Current regulation allows bad actors to produce illegal cannabis, charge lower prices, and flourish. Governor Newsom has signaled that he backs a decrease on the state tax for cannabis in order to support the fledgling industry. Until there is a more favorable regulatory and tax environment in California, the companies that can find ways to contain costs through supply chain management (via supply agreement, vertical integration partnerships, etc) we believe will survive the early days of the legal cannabis industry.