In the old days of illegal weed, the price you paid for your weekend toke depended mostly on who was selling it to you. These were behind-the-scenes transactions, with no recourse for a deal gone bad and no way to price compare with a competitor. You paid the price asked or you went without.
Now, as state legalization grows and the chatter about federal legalization becomes less talk and more reality, the game has changed forever for the buyer. So, it’s a good time to be clear on what you’re paying for before you go to your local cannabis boutique, or even the corner store, if you should be so lucky to have marijuana available for sale there!
First off, price comparing starts with quantity
If you want to look at what your weed is going to cost you, and even compare different strains, it’s best to pick a quantity. From state to state, the price of quantity X will vary, based on factors we’ll discuss later, but for now, it’s important to understand what quantities you can order in.
The most common quantities you can buy cannabis in are a gram, eighth of an ounce, quarter of an ounce, half an ounce, and a full ounce. Notice how the common quantities mix metric and Imperial measuring units? A gram is 1/1000th of a kilogram and an ounce is 1/16th of a pound. Typically, you’ll find that dispensaries will use ounces for larger quantities, and grams for a smaller purchase.
What does a gram look like? It’s about the size of a bottle cap, which gives you a visual point of reference to figure out what you’re getting for what price. The average joint is about 0.7 grams of weed so a gram will give you about 1.5 joints. Here are the other measurements, to give you a rough idea of what you’re getting:
- An eighth of an ounce (which is roughly 3.5 grams) will give you just about 5 joints.
- A quarter of an ounce (7 grams) will net about 10 joints.
- A half an ounce (14 grams) will give you about 20 joints.
- A full ounce (28 grams) is just about equal to 40 joints.
From Alaska to West Virginia, that price per ounce of medium quality weed can run anywhere from $6 to $12.
Quality is the next factor
If you look at average prices of weed across the country, they’re pretty stable and typically refer to medium quality cannabis. When you want to compare a gram of cannabis from one shop to another, a major increase in price could be because of the quality of the product.
For example, an organic and locally indoor grown variety might be more expensive than a mass produced, imported one. You really do have to compare apples to apples, if you want to be sure you’re getting the right picture.
Other factors that will influence the price of weed
Your state’s legal stance toward cannabis
If you live in a state where cannabis isn’t legal in any form, obviously you’re still operating in the old ways of quiet deals made with people who don’t really care to negotiate the prices they feel like charging. After all, they risk going to jail for providing you with your ‘chill’ so there’s a premium attached to that.
In the states that have legalized recreational marijuana (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington), you’ll find competition higher and prices that reflect that.
The remaining twenty-one states that have legalized medical marijuana require a doctor’s note to obtain it, which isn’t a particularly challenging hurdle in most places, so this doesn’t affect the prices too significantly.
One place where cannabis is particularly expensive? Washington D.C. Despite legalization of medical and recreational use, they didn’t legalize the purchase of cannabis. That little detail is reflected in prices that are almost twice the national average for legalized / decriminalized states!
The physical geography of where you live
Cannabis isn’t an overly fussy plant to cultivate but it does prefer warm, stable temperatures, averaging in the daytime around 80 degrees. Places that have daytime temperatures that run hotter than 88 degrees or colder than 60 degrees have a harder time growing—it’s a slower process—and can end up with plants that have lower THC content and therefore lower overall quality.
So, if you live in Alaska or New Hampshire, for example, your weed has most likely been brought in from elsewhere, which means added costs in transportation and labor, to package and ship.
How your weed is grown
How your preferred brand is grown makes a difference on quality.
- Are they grown outdoors where light, water, soil, and ambient daytime temperatures are all free for the asking and therefore don’t add to the cost of production?
- Are they grown indoors, where special electrical lighting, watering and feed systems, and climate control are all required and add to the cost of production?
Outdoor grown weed can be lower quality in that there aren’t many ways to control Mother Nature. Being able to control elements through technology can yield a higher quality product. From pest and humidity control to very specific watering schedules, as well as the use of light waves to maximize growth and intensity, indoor growers have the keys to control quality in ways that outdoor growers really cannot.
Factor in also whether the grower is using organic production methods, as this will definitely yield a higher quality product. No toxins from pesticides means a cleaner experience for you.
Where you buy your marijuana
Are you buying from a boutique dispensary or a corner store? Are you buying from a chain of cannabis stores or from a one-man dealer? Which way you go will affect the price you pay.
Dispensaries have overhead and staff to pay, which adds to the cost. However, they also have guidelines to follow in terms of packaging and labeling, as well as a vested interest in pleasing their customer, so they’re a good bet. You will know exactly what you’re getting, including the sourcing, THC content, whether it’s organic or not and so on. If you buy from a dealer, who is claiming to sell high quality products, you have no guarantees whatsoever that they are telling the truth.
Competitors drive the price down
Supply and demand is an easy equation. If there are several dispensaries with similar offerings in your area, the price per gram will be lower than in an area with no competition for your one dispensary. There is less supply for potentially similar demand, which can easily affect the price. The key as a consumer is to know your average pricing so you can tell whether or not you are getting a good deal.
Taxation and legalization go hand in hand
The states that have legalized marijuana have also clued in that it is an important revenue source. Sales tax, if the state has one, is applied to cannabis too. The rate can be higher for weed than for other products, as it is in Colorado. They have a state sales tax rate of 2.9% but the rate for weed? 10%.
In addition to sales tax, legal sellers are faced with taxes in production, purchasing, packing and transportation, costs that are typically downloaded to the end consumer.
The timing of your purchases
Time of year can impact the price of weed. Like most cultivated crops, the largest amounts are harvested in and around the month of September. Result? The supply is up, and prices should go down a little.
As legalization continues to expand, state to state and even federally, the pricing will become more standard and easier to predict. At that point, the quality of the weed will be the big differentiator and as the end consumer, that’s not a small factor to consider. Buy with care and enjoy yourself!
Anthony Franciosi, also known as Ant, is an honest to goodness farmer whose fingers are as green as the organic cannabis he grows. He is the proud founder of Honest Marijuana– an all-natural, completely organic marijuana growery in Colorado.