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A conversation with a drug dealer

While out exploring marijuana's first legal frontier, we took a moment to catch up with one young man who has stayed on the darker side of weed—the illegal side. He's a black market street dealer who sees himself as a local go-to guy providing a service.

"You got a whole bunch of college students who smoke a lot of weed ... so, you know, me being that guy, it's good for me," the Boulder, Colo., resident told us.

While legal marijuana sales in Colorado could reach almost $1 billion in the 2014-2015 fiscal year, the black market has not disappeared. The dealer we spoke with pointed out that the high taxes on legal recreational marijuana makes illegal weed very appealing at about half the price.

The dealer estimated that he could make between $10,000 and $20,000 per month just from sales to people in his immediate neighborhood.

It's a potentially risky business with 749,825 marijuana-related arrests nationwide in 2012, but this dealer says that right now "the cops are chilling." He thinks that law enforcement near him is much more concerned about drugs like methamphetamine and heroin.

Boulder Police Chief Mark R. Beckner had this response to the dealer's comments: "I don't know so much if there's been a change, we've always focused on harder drugs than marijuana. But if he's talking about illegal dealing, in that case we'd still be concerned about illegal marijuana dealing."

The dealer feels sure that his job is safe; demand for marijuana is strong enough to bring profits to plenty of suppliers—legal or illegal. "People are smoking every day, regardless of how many people don't want to hear it," he says.

—By Savannah Sellers, Special to CNBC

CNBC and correspondent Harry Smith tell the story behind this controversial and stunning development and report on the exploding legal pot market. Watch "Marijuana in America: Colorado Pot Rush" on Feb. 26 at 10 p.m. ET.

  • Harry Smith

    Harry Smith is an NBC News correspondent who came to NBC News as a correspondent for "Rock Center" with Brian Williams in July 2011.