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What are the odds of getting busted for selling marijuana?

The marijuana business poses one unique risk that you won't find in most business ventures -- you could wind up in jail for a long time. As with any other business risk, this one needs to be analyzed.

The first thing to understand is that the odds depend on the behavior of the marijuana grower and dealer. In many cases where someone got busted, there was a clear reason -- like their crop was growing over their fence and bothering the neighbors. Or, in many cases, the people just got too big and too greedy and fairly well provoked their arrest and prosecution. On the other hand, there are lots of examples of people who have been in business for years without getting busted. There are traditional marijuana dealers who have been in business for thirty years or more and some openly operating stores that have been in business for ten years or more. It has a great deal to do with the local situation, and how intelligently someone operates their business in view of the local situation. The goal is to "fly under the radar" of enforcement. It might also be added that marijuana dealers should be good citizens in every way they can. Being a good citizen is a good way to stay under the radar, and to have people vouching for one's integrity if anything bad should happen.

Overall, provided someone's behavior is what could be called "average" for marijuana growers and dealers, the odds of getting busted are something less than one percent over a period of about five years. If someone is reasonably careful, the odds of getting busted are close to zero. Marijuana dealers who want to stay hidden from law enforcement, and pay attention to what they are doing, can operate quite freely without any real fear from law enforcement.

This is true even of the clubs that are openly operating in California right now. Our surveys show that there is a uniform sentiment among the owners and operators of these clubs. They simply are not afraid of getting busted. They know they are safe under California law and with the current political situation in the Los Angeles area. They are not afraid of the Federal DEA because they know that the DEA is overwhelmed and rapidly losing the battle of public image. The DEA has raided several stores but arrests are few and prosecutions, so far, are fewer. There are already too many stores for the DEA to feasibly prosecute them. Under the current worldwide terrorist situation they would have a tough time justifying the resources needed for the prosecution of several thousand people for medical marijuana in Los Angeles.

The DEA has sent letters to landlords warning the landlords that they face seizure of their properties. As we will discuss in more detail elsewhere, this will not turn out to be a credible threat. If the DEA actually tries to do that, they will be in for one of the nastiest political battles of their lives.

Given this situation, the DEA is reduced to a kind of temper tantrum. They raid shops, take all the money and marijuana, break everything in the place and then leave. They are acting like stupid kids because they know they have lost this battle. They are still potentially dangerous and no one should underestimate their capacity for dangerous stupidity but they have already lost this fight and they know it themselves.

Therefore, the bottom line is that, if you pay attention to what you are doing, don't bend your security rules, don't have lines around the block outside your apartment, or stink the neighbors out with 400 plants in your apartment, you should be OK. If someone is careful, it is quite possible to do business for many, many years with no significant risk of any significant bust. In fact, it is the rule, rather than the exception.

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