The Katchup

Cali’s Black-Market Cannabis Scene Is As Strong As Ever

Quotes in this article transcribed from the Foodbeast Katchup podcast, now on Spotify and the Apple Podcast App.

Weed is legal in California, and regulations have made it so that cannabis companies can legally get their products out to the world.

However, with taxes and regulations making products a lot more expensive than consumers are used to, a black market still exists, where edibles and weed sellers get around the legal regulations and taxes.

The hosts of the Foodbeast Katchup found this out first hand, accidentally finding themselves in an underground cannabis swap meet.

The swap meet was very secretive in nature, so much so that Katchup host Elie Ayrouth was under the impression that he was being invited to a secret dinner, as Foodbeast often is.

The two hosts didn’t linger, but not being exposed often to that type of event, they took it in, documenting their experience on the podcast.

“That day we were recording a podcast and I was like, ‘Yo Geoff, you want to go to a pop-up dinner,’ because that’s what I thought it was,” Katchup co-host Elie Ayrouth detailed. “As I asked (the inviting party) he started unveiling a little more information, and that’s when I realized that this was like a cannabis swap meet.”

Ask a stoner about these meetups, and you’ll likely get a chuckle. These are their spots if they don’t want to burn a hole in their wallet. It’s like a night market for cannabis products, and several vendors set up to sell at a secretly disclosed location.

The same risks remain from before the California laws were passed, as the dosages are not regulated, the seller isn’t adhering to any type of government regulation, and the risk of a raid still remains for vendors there.

According to CNBC, the illegal weed market is still a $70 billion industry nationwide, and undercutting the companies that are doing it the legal way.

The same CNBC article reports that while California estimated to make $1 billion from cannabis taxes, which was one of the leading forces in driving the vote for legalization, the state only made about $345 million from the legal dispensaries.

As we learned from a previous podcast with Kristi Knoblich-Palmer, co-founder of Kiva Confectionery edibles, the price points are some of the biggest differences between the legal and illegal markets, and she detailed why the prices for legal products can often be so high:

“There are the most extreme requirements that we have as a brand. We don’t like frustrating our consumers, that’s not our first choice. Regulation requires us to put our products into a child-resistant box. That box has increased in price from this year to last year by 5x. The state requires that we test absolutely every batch for food safety and potency, to make sure that it meets state standards. The way that the state has testing happening right now, it is extremely expensive, and we also have to do it twice. You’re paying thousands of dollars per batch in testing. The last one and most impactful, is taxes. Because cannabis is a little bit fringe… everybody has their hands in our pocket. The state has a pretty high excise tax, which ends up being 15% to the consumer. Then we have a local tax. Our taxes are getting marked up, and marked up, all throughout the supply chain.”

So there’s a reason that $18 for their chocolate bar is so expensive, and also a reason that consumers flock to the underground industry.

Even as the LA Times has reported that the city has been cracking down on illegal cannabis sales, there are reportedly hundreds of illegal dispensaries across Los Angeles alone.

These black market shops are still thriving, and it might take time before there’s a shift in that culture.


You’d Be Surprised What Everyday Foods Are Found On The Cuban Black Market

Cubans often joke that the biggest failures of the revolution were breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I mean, really often. They probably teach that joke in primary school. When you consider the average Cuban makes $20 a month, however, that joke falls a little flat. 

The black market quickly became a necessary part of Cuban life once Fidel Castro came to power, but its scope grew significantly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. As the country tried to bounce back from economic peril, grandmas and neighbors alike began doing whatever was necessary to put food on the table. Here are the most common foods Cubans seek in the shadow of the shadow of the government.



Eggs are likely the most difficult item to move without being noticed, given their fragile nature. Earlier this year, 18 people, including several government officials, were arrested for stealing approximately 8 million eggs and selling them on the black market.

Coffee Beans

coffee beans

The Castro regime transformed the country’s coveted coffee beans from domestic staples to exclusive exports. These luxurious beans, though renowned throughout the world for their richness, can only be rarely and illegally enjoyed by Cubans.


havana club

Cuban rum, considered some of the best in the world. Bacardi, one of the most notable names in international rum, fled Cuba in the late 1950s and was domestically replaced with Havana Club — in government markets at least. Moonshine is one of the hottest commodities on the island, but occasionally the lack of hygiene and ingredient oversight results in mass hospitalizations.

Herbs and Spices


Limited access to basic flavor enhancers continues to take its toll on Cuban cuisine. Coming across items like cilantro or cumin can be difficult, legally or not. The few herbs and spices consistently stocked in marketplaces often run out of them within a couple of hours of opening.



Banned yet omnipresent on the black market, Coca-Cola never truly left Cuba. Sure, some entrepreneurial citizens make their own sodas with shadily acquired carbon dioxide, but the real deal is always preferred. In recent years, relaxed laws have made the beverage accessible in businesses that generally cater to government officials or tourists.



Cuba consistently experiences potato shortages. During these periods, official potato sales are limited to the provinces that produce the tubers. In the summer of 2015 alone, black market potato prices reached at least 1000 percent of the government prices.



While it’s no picnic trying to find chicken or pork in Cuba, beef is particularly scarce throughout the island. Many restaurants serve hamburgers and steaks, but good luck asking where they obtained the beef. Rarely in government markets (and lavishly priced when it is), Cuban beef mostly comes from the U.S. The locals have never thought highly of our meat in general, but desperate times call for mixing ratios of beef and pork in order to make “beef” patties.


South Koreans Activists Send North Koreans Choco Pies Across the Border — With Balloons


The hallmark of a good friend is that they’ll always have your back, whether that means helping you move, hiding a dead body, or even sneaking illegal snack foods across military borders.

Previously offered as treats to North Korean factory workers, the South Korean chocolate and marshmallow sponge cakes known as Choco Pies were banned in North Korea back in May for being a “symbol of capitalism,” reports The Guardian. Now, in an act of sweet tooth solidarity, South Korean activists have launched approximately 10,000 Choco Pies to their North Korean brethren across the border Wednesday morning. And they did it using helium balloons.

According to CNN, Choco Pies have been sold on the North Korean black market for as much as $10 apiece. Factory owners have been told to replace employees’ snacks with other, less explicitly South Korean, rewards, such as cup noodles or instant coffee, a change that has been met with positive feedback. Still, activists insist they will continue their balloon launches, despite threats of bombings from North Korean capital Pyongyang.

“We will continue to send Choco Pie by balloons because it is still one of the most popular foodstuffs, especially among hungry North Koreans,” activist Choo Sun-Hee said, reports The Guardian.

Best. Supports. Ever. Just one question: how do they control where the balloons land?


There is Now a Black Market for Cronuts


With everyone clamoring whilst drooling over themselves to get their hands on a Cronut, it was only a matter of time before these delicate pastries hit the black market. And by black market we mean Craigslist.

As Bloomberg food critic Ryan Sutton first pointed out, “Cronut Scalping Has Begun!” According to Sutton, die-hard Cronut fans have been lining up outside of Dominique Ansel bakery, waiting for up to 90 minutes to snatch up this half-croissant, half-donut delicacy.

Of course, there are only a set number of Cronuts available daily, so some folks are out of luck and their wait is in vain. Then there’s the people who don’t have the luxury of living in NY or the time to queue up by the bakery. So what’s a Cronut-deprived soul to do?

Hit up this guy, apparently:


[click to enlarge]

If you need them delivered to Manhattan from SoHo, it’ll cost you $20 per Cronut, $30 to Queens and $40 to Brooklyn. The delivery guy also notes that the five is the max, since he will be eating one himself, naturally.

Here’s to hoping he delivers to California. Goodness knows I’d be willing to shell out for a few of these flaky, creamy bites of heaven.

H/T The Bad Deal