Dear Stoner: Why is the price of recreational cannabis usually 50 to 100 percent more than its medical equivalent? I do fully understand that the rec weed is more heavily taxed, but I'm referring to the price before taxes. Isn't it the same weed? Does it cost more to grow it or license it — or is it just another example of price-gouging? I must be missing something here!
DJ From Ohio
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Dear DJ: While dispensary owners will say that the high prices are due to the high cost of opening up a recreational dispensary, we don't buy it. Not that we doubt it was expensive to jump through the hoops of state and local licensing — but dispensaries had to pay for licenses for medical cannabis, too, and weren't jacking up prices on pot to $50 an eighth before taxes. It's hard to not see it as price-gouging when they are charging the same price as dealers did ten years ago, when the stuff was still illegal to buy and sell.
We've even heard rumors of price-fixing going on by members of certain industry groups, with dispensaries conspiring to keep prices higher across the board instead of jumping into the price wars that brought storefront medical marijuana prices down over the past few years. Whether that's true or not, at dispensaries that have converted fully to recreational sales, it's still common to find the exact same warehouse-quality eighth you bought for $25 in 2011 now selling for $50 pre-tax. It doesn't cost more to grow than it used to; in fact, in anticipation of legal adult sales, many medical dispensaries expanded their grows and built greenhouses to facilitate the increased production while lowering their overall cost of growing by taking advantage of natural light.
But here's the rub: As much as any logical, thinking person might object to the high prices even before the absurd taxes on recreational cannabis, there are clearly people out there paying it. In June, recreational pot stores made $24.7 million in sales — just $4 million shy of the total medical marijuana sales. There's no incentive for these places to drop the price of their ganja as long as the money is still coming in.
There is some light at the end of the (expensive) tunnel, though: Recreational dispensaries are starting to drop their prices as more and more shops open their doors. While such deals are still rare, we've even seen recreational cannabis prices come down to $200 an ounce and $25 to $35 an eighth.