If you live in a state where you can legally purchase cannabis and take a trip to your local dispensary to pick up some flower, you probably have a good idea about how much you plan to spend. That’s assuming you’ve already visited a handful of collectives in your city, are familiar with most of the standard prices for marijuana and understand that even the cost for strains inside the same retail location can have a pretty wide range of prices based on everything from the quality of the product to its popularity among the location’s clientele. Once you step outside of your sphere though, you may find the prices for cannabis products could be very different just one city over.
Pricing for marijuana depends on a number of factors and can fluctuate dramatically even between marijuana strains that have been given the same name. In fact, identically named strains from different cultivators often have lots of genomic and phenotypic differences that make them vary in quality and affect the price.
For example, one grower’s version of Sour Diesel can have a very different genetic profile from another grower’s product. These variances can affect the terpene content and THC/CBD level based on cultivation conditions (i.e., Was it grown indoors or out? Is it organic?) and what season it is—for starters. If you add in the strain’s popularity and where it’s being sold, the pricing scale becomes incredibly subjective.
Whereas Colorado has experienced a drop in prices since the legalization of recreational or adult-use cannabis, cannabis prices in Nevada have risen a jaw-dropping 200% since sales began on July 1 in response to the unexpectedly high demand from consumers. Though most of the demand comes from visiting tourists in town for a fun weekend, Nevada’s extreme price hike has had a major impact on a state that’s still struggling to get more cultivation licenses approved to increase the supply that’s available to consumers.
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State taxes also play a role in the price of cannabis. For example, in California there are 58 counties and 482 municipalities that can add their own regional tax on top of the proposed state tax for cannabis. Those costs are typically passed on to the consumer, which result in higher and variable prices, depending on the county or municipality.
Though consumers may be looking for a more streamlined and stable pricing structure for cannabis, this may still be much further off in the future—if it comes at all. All of the variances in quality, appearance, plant genetics, cultivation practices, and regional supply and demand make it a challenge to create a systematic pricing structure with clear criteria that makes sense for each state. Add to that the illegal status of marijuana at the federal level; this prevents the needed research and development to create a common standard.
Because black market dealers are able to bypass regulatory fees and regional taxes that the legal market is faced with, they’re typically able to sell marijuana at lower prices. This means that some consumers will be willing to take the risk of buying cannabis illegally from the black market—and potentially forego quality and selection for better prices.