Tyrone Muhammed, fifth from right, and Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change demonstrating in Summer 2021 outside Sunnyside Dispensary’s Wrigleyville Chicago location, calling on customers to ditch white-owned companies and to support your local weed man.” Credit: Submitted / ECCSC

A leading advocate for the underground market says a recent Chicago Sun-Times report that legal cannabis sold in Illinois dispensaries is not always free of mold reveals that the legal market isn’t as good as advertised.

“Saying that dispensary marijuana is safer than what you get on the street, is a scare tactic used on citizens to further isolate street vendors from the industry,” Tyrone Muhammad, founder of Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change (ECCSC).

Testing should come at the point when it leaves the grower, said Illinois State Rep. LaShawn Ford who led efforts to overhaul state cannabis laws last spring.

“It’s clear that once it gets to the dispensary, it’s already sealed. If it’s sealed, it’s probably not going to grow mold in the dispensary. So, I think that we have to pretty much focus on the cultivators where the marijuana is grown because that’s where I think we can point the finger.”

“No matter what product you have, there’s probably going to be mold. We see mold on food in stores, but the fact is, people don’t pay for mold. They expect that when we legalized marijuana, that they were going to have a safe product,” said Ford. “Legalization is regulation for safety. That’s what it’s all about and there has been a revelation that there are some problems with the safety of marijuana in the state.”

Muhammad added those concerns are why you should support and know your local weed man.

“We’ve been the ones serving white America with our lives and our bodies for that product that they’ve been coming into our neighborhoods and getting for 50 years with no issues, mind you,” Muhammad said. “You have a few arrogant individuals who might mix it with something, but that’s to be understood. Now regulations are in place. They’re growing more weed than they’re able to move. They have shelves of weed stacked up in warehouses where mold is developing and they have no recourse but to push it out.”

The underground market is probably more healthy and able to exist because there’s no regulation, Muhummad added.

“The problem with street weed is that fentanyl is on the rise,” Ford cautioned, citing recent reports that have been debunked. “You’re not going to get laced marijuana at a dispensary. That’s the thing. I think we have to do everything we can to protect consumers.”

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Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.