California is approaching its fourth year of legal recreational marijuana, yet the underground market is as strong as ever and is making it harder for licensed companies to eke out a profit.
Saddled by steep regulatory and compliance costs, legal marijuana companies in California can’t compete with illicit operators on product prices.
Administrative bottlenecks, substantial capital requirements and dysfunctional social equity programs have kept many legacy players out of the legal marijuana market.
At the same time, cheaper operating costs and limited legal risk continue to fuel the underground trade.
That picture emerges after MJBizDaily spoke with three longtime unlicensed operators who agreed to discuss their lucrative cultivation, sales and consulting businesses as well as the challenges of becoming a licensed company.