DETROIT (WXYZ) — Despite recreational marijuana now legal in the State of Michigan, Detroit Police say the black market is thriving, and they're noticing an alarming trend; a spike in violence tied to underground sales.
Recently, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said the 12th Precinct reported a spike in nonfatal shootings, many tied to black market sales. After that, Chief Craig met with police commanders and community stakeholders, and determined the trend was also occurring in other parts of the city.
He said roughly 60 percent of recent assaults and homicides this year are tied to illegal pot sales, and that the problem is not isolated to gangs.
“We’re not trying to re-write the law relative to marijuana, not at all. We’re trying to stop the violence," Chief Craig told Action News Reporter Jenn Schanz.
Chief Craig said the focus of the department is to remove illegal guns from black market sales.
MORE: @ChiefJECraigDPD speaks on how recreational legalization has impacted black market sales. He says officers are not focused on illegal sales as much as on the violence, illegal guns associated with them @wxyzdetroit @detroitpolice pic.twitter.com/4Z534YmWqq— Jenn Schanz (@JennSchanzWXYZ) January 23, 2020
Michigan voters chose to legalize recreational marijuana more than a year ago — something Chief Craig said has embolden underground dealers.
“They move around with a sense of immunity because they figure well I have marijuana, it’s legal, so I don’t have to be as discreet," Cheif Craig said.
Legal recreational sales haven’t started in the City of Detroit yet, and that could be delayed until late March.
“It has nothing to do, nothing at all to do with the delay of the City Council putting in a process. That’s not going to affect it. The cost is the cost," said Craig.
Buying pot illegally the on the street is much cheaper and often more potent than buying at a legal provisioning center, where the product is state tested.
Chief Craig said part of the problem, is that victims of violence associated with black market sales don’t want to tell police. He said this uptick in violence is affecting both dealers and buyers.
"Many times when we go and investigate these crimes they’re not openly admitting well yes I’m selling marijuana on the black market and during my sale I was shot," he said.
Craig wouldn't go into details on how Detroit Police are working to combat black market sales, but said their focus is not on the illegal product, but moreso on the illegal firearms associated with it.
While gang-related violence in Detroit has gone down, recent numbers show other violence so far in 2020 is on the upswing.
As of Thursday, there's been 19 homicides so far in 2020 compared to 10 homicides this time last year.
There's been 34 nonfatal shootings so far in 2020, compared to 28 nonfatal shootings this time last year.