The commercial varieties, that is. Apparently pot stores are just booming.

Why now? The pandemic, naturally, which has left us isolated at home, prone to loneliness, boredom, anxiety, depression and stress. Where in the past people would turn to alcohol as a remedy  of choice, we’re told it’s now cannabis.

Although I understand alcoholic beverage sales are up, too. Maybe folks are indulging in both?

Perish the thought.

What’s the attraction to commercially produced pot? Besides legal status, of course. Vendors claim that customers are drawn to the feeling of confidence they get from a brightly packaged product, versus the traditional plastic baggie filled with suspicious-looking greenish-brown plant-like stuff. Many purchasers are a bit older and way past the romance of outlaw drug use.

So does this mean that illicit sales are heading south for good? Probably not. It’s difficult to know for certain, as there’s no way to keep accurate count when nobody pays sales tax on the revenue. One area of agreement is that even now, illegal sales still far surpass commercial. How many of the new customers are former illicit users switching over? We can’t know for sure.

Our experience with drugs such as alcohol and tobacco suggests that rather than replacing the black market, the two could go right on operating alongside one another. The more states permit commercial sales in an effort to reap tax revenue – with a major recession looming, that’ll be most of them – the higher store-bought prices will have to climb. The incentive will shift back to cheaper black market purchases.

Revenue shortfalls are often the motivation for full legalization of a prohibited substance. The Great Depression of the 1930’s that led to the repeat of Prohibition, despite considerable opposition. Governments needed the tax money.

Especially in states like the one where I now live. It’s traditionally among the nation’s leaders in Broke.

I’m not overly concerned about the revenue potential for licensed pot. Investors, always looking for the next big thing, are betting on it. Their wagers are predicated not on what’s happening in the market now but on what they believe conditions will be a year or two down the road. It’s gambling on an immense scale.

I guess those of us in and around the field of treatment will just have to stay tuned until things shake out and we get a clearer picture of what happens next. Especially to the 10% or so of users who will develop a Cannabis Use Disorder and want (or maybe just need) professional help.