The Cost of Colorado Pot May Be Doubling, but It’s Still Pretty Cheap

Although the price of marijuana in Colorado is rising, the drug is a bargain there compared with the illegal market.

A clearly excited man selects marijuana strains to purchase at the 3-D Denver Discrete Dispensary on January 1, 2014 in Denver, Colorado.
National Journal
Matt Berman
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Matt Berman
Jan. 6, 2014, 6:47 a.m.

The Col­or­ado pot in­dustry is hav­ing a party. With stores be­gin­ning to leg­ally sell marijuana for re­cre­ation­al use, the laws of sup­ply and de­mand have taken over. Right now, with only a few dozen re­cre­ation­al shops in op­er­a­tion, leg­al sup­ply is reas­on­ably low. But de­mand is skyrock­et­ing, and many stores say that they’re already on the brink of selling out.

That means, as Bloomberg re­ports Monday, that marijuana dis­pens­ar­ies that are li­censed to sell re­cre­ation­al pot are jack­ing up prices. An eighth of an ounce of med­ic­al pot has been go­ing for around $25 in Col­or­ado. Now, a re­cre­ation­al eighth is go­ing for more like $45, roughly doub­ling the price.

That may sound like a steep in­crease. But for people who may be more ac­cus­tomed to buy­ing pot off the street, $45 is a deal worth tak­ing.

In our na­tion’s cap­it­al, a high-qual­ity eighth is go­ing for as much as $80 in 2014, ac­cord­ing to Price of Weed, a self-pro­claimed “glob­al price in­dex for marijuana.” A me­di­um-qual­ity eighth in Col­or­ado’s neigh­bor, Wyom­ing, went for $60 this past Decem­ber.

When you look at the price of a full ounce, things get a bit di­ci­er. In Col­or­ado, a re­cre­ation­al ounce of pot is now go­ing for an av­er­age of $400, com­pared to $200 for med­ic­al. That’s a pretty high num­ber by most stand­ards. The av­er­age price of a high-qual­ity ounce in D.C. is $352.18, and nearly the same in New York. A high-qual­ity ounce also goes for about $350 in Col­or­ado bor­der-states Kan­sas, Neb­raska, and Wyom­ing. The price is about $300 in Ari­zona, just un­der $300 in Utah and New Mex­ico, and just over $360 in Ok­lahoma.

That roughly $50 dif­fer­ence between the leg­al, re­cre­ation­al high-qual­ity eighth and a high-qual­ity eighth off the street may seem like a lot to some shop­pers. But when you factor in risk, it’s easy to ima­gine ra­tion­ally pay­ing that ex­tra $50 for peace-of-mind and a bit more of a choice and qual­ity-as­sur­ance in what kind of pot you’re buy­ing. And it can also be something of a time-suck to track down and pur­chase il­leg­al pot, es­pe­cially com­pared with the ease of just walk­ing in­to a store.

Not to men­tion, the high cur­rent costs of re­cre­ation­al pot in Col­or­ado are un­likely to last. “As more busi­nesses open and the busi­nesses get a sense of what the de­mand is and are able to meet it,” the ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Na­tion­al Can­nabis In­dustry As­so­ci­ation tells Bloomberg, “the prices will go back down.”

The price of leg­al re­cre­ation­al pot in Col­or­ado may nev­er get as low as the price for med­ic­al marijuana. But that doesn’t mean it won’t quickly be­come a much bet­ter deal than you can get off the street.

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