Legalization of Cannabis Drags Chinese Nationals Into Crime

By Hannah Cai
Hannah Cai
Hannah Cai
July 5, 2021 Updated: July 31, 2021

Many Chinese people have given up restaurant jobs in recent years and associated themselves with illegal marijuana ventures such as black-market trading, illicit cultivation, cross-state trafficking, and money laundering. They get pulled in with the lure of “making a fortune in the cannabis industry” and are unable to get themselves out.

On July 1, 2010, Fayin Deng submitted a plea letter to the judge before the court’s verdict. He wrote, “once I started making that money it never felt like I had enough and could stop. I lost my self-control and fell to the temptation that the easy money offered.”

Deng and his six cousins were operating Chinese restaurants in Colorado. Meanwhile, they purchased at least nine independent houses to grow marijuana in various middle-class communities. They used the profit from drug trafficking to launder money in restaurants and then transfer large amounts of cash from the United States to China. These methods turned their illegal income into legal income, according to the indictment.

In the plea letter, Deng described in detail the extreme poverty of his childhood and how those circumstances relate to the crime he committed.

“Unquestionably that experience of extreme poverty helped to fuel the allure for Fayin of the easy money that came to him in the marijuana business,” said Deng’s lawyer. “He feels like a man who is dying of thirst drowning himself when he finally finds water.”

Deng’s lawyer wrote that Colorado’s legal environment regarding marijuana obviously contributed to Deng’s wrong choice. “Hundreds, if not thousands of people have followed the allure of the money to be made by growing and selling marijuana as the state of Colorado has moved toward legalization.” Deng later received a reduced sentence of 18 months in federal prison after pleading guilty in 2010.

But on May 18, 2021, nearly 12 years to the day after they were arrested the first time, Deng and his wife were once again accused of participating in a similar black market marijuana scheme—an operation the now-former U.S. attorney for the District of Colorado in 2019 called one of the largest marijuana busts in state history. The two appeared in the Federal Court in Denver on June 9 and both pleaded not guilty. If convicted, they will face up to 40 years in federal prison.

Problems of Marijuana Legalization

The legalization of marijuana failed to eliminate the black market, and on the contrary, operates as a hotbed for it. Eighteen months after the legalization of commercial marijuana, the illegal trade in Illinois is still dominating a total state-wide market. Some experts have valued it at over $4 billion, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

New Frontier Data, a cannabis industry research firm, estimates that black-market marijuana sales in Illinois will exceed $2.2 billion this year.

Robert Corry, an attorney in Denver, Colorado, published an article in The CT Mirror on June 9, saying that he had helped draft an amendment to legalized marijuana in Colorado in 2012, and also helped design implementing regulations, but is not proud of it. Because nearly a decade later, Colorado has a government-protected drug-dealing industry, “that perpetuates itself to the detriment of the public and the planet” said Corry.

Corry mentioned the percentage of Colorado’s overall state revenue from marijuana is minuscule. While costs for treatment, lost productivity, and other externalities of increased intoxication and addiction, plus harm to children, have skyrocketed. “[Colorado] turned into a national joke. Colorado is now synonymous with marijuana, and marijuana is a net loss.”

Corry urged Connecticut to resist the well-funded pressure to follow Colorado’s mistake and not give a foothold to a powerful criminal lobby. He argued for at least capping its potency, as some lawmakers want to genetically modify cannabis to increase the level of cannabinoids (THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient). The potency of marijuana depends on the amount of THC.

Dangers of High-Potency Marijuana

According to Corry’s analysis in his article, natural cannabis grown outdoors contains about 5 percent THC, but Colorado’s new marijuana is genetically modified to approach up to 100 percent THC. “To engineer these high THC levels, corporations grow inside gigantic warehouses … They use arrays of large artificial lights, wasting huge quantities of energy. Massive rows of air conditioning units run, day and night. ”

In addition, genetically modified indoor plants are soaked in chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. “These toxic carcinogens are either ingested by the consumer, or foul Colorado’s air and water,” said Corry.

These forms of marijuana can contain up to 99 percent pure THC (cannabinoid), a psychoactive compound that makes users feel “high.” Before the mid-1990s, the average content of THC never exceeded 3 percent to 5 percent.

Health surveys (pdf) show that there aren’t more young people using marijuana, but those who do, use it more frequently and are increasingly using methods—like dabbing and vape pens—associated with higher concentration products.

Recent data released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment show that the use of cannabis e-cigarettes and other concentrates (vaping and dabbing) among young people in the state soared from 2015 to 2019.

For young people, it is easier to get cannabis drugs, which will cause more serious social problems. Denver7 reported on May 3 that a young man in Denver committed suicide. His family believed the use of high potency marijuana made him take his own life.

The Upstate New York Poison Center has also warned of a drastic increase in calls about children and teens who have been exposed to marijuana products. According to the Center, between 2011 and 2016, two to four calls were received each year about children under the age of 6 who accidentally swallowed marijuana edibles. The number began to rise in 2017, and in the first five months of this year, the center received 31 such calls. Marijuana edibles are mistakenly eaten by toddlers because they “look and taste just like candy, cookies, and brownies.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill on March 31 this year to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use, becoming the 15th state in the United States to do so.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana, “an alliance of organizations and individuals dedicated to a health-first approach to marijuana policy,” is concerned that legalizing marijuana will harm road safety, youth development, social security, and that its destructive power will offset the impact of tax revenue.

Hannah Cai
Hannah Cai