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One Year Into Legal Cannabis in California, Buyers Are Still Paying Black Market Prices

Why Is California Still Paying Black Market Prices for Legal Pot?
Photo Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now

Joint Opinions

One Year Into Legal Cannabis in California, Buyers Are Still Paying Black Market Prices

Here we are, a year after prohibition ended in California, paying corporate America top-dollar for mids.

In 2019, Californians find ourselves entered into an even-grayer marijuana marketplace. But as we wait patiently for Congress to catch up with the states that have taken it upon themselves to end the draconian prohibition of cannabis, we must face a harsh reality: We still pay black market prices for legal marijuana, the kind you grow without fear of arrest and helicopters.

Despite the tediousness of this waiting period, it’s not so bad. We have gone from sick people getting their doors kicked in and medicine chopped down to this shiny new era of legal cannabis — this new marketplace that knows little of the threats its forefathers faced. What is bad, though, is the blatant price gouging.

A Quick History Lesson

Providers in the legal market don’t have to deal with Bush-era busts or the modified tactics of Obama’s Department of Justice anymore. While the Oaksterdam raid and some larger tactical operations in the Emerald Triangle colored public perception of marijuana enforcement during those years, in reality, legal teams across the country also fought behind the scenes to keep dispensaries open.

Before California legalized adult-use cannabis, many growers and retailers didn’t own the properties they were operating in, so as not to risk the threat forfeiture if things went sideways. As opposed to kicking in the door, chopping the plants and grabbing the cameras, the DOJ went straight to the landlords with the threats. Many would close their doors, while others would spend years in court with the feds to stay open.

So back during prohibition, these people charged prices that took into account insane risk: the threat of losing their freedom and all their property. They did this to provide California’s residents, often patients, with high-end cannabis that was way better than what was coming stuffed in tires, surfboards and people from Mexico.

But now, 12 months into this grand California legalization experience, why are we paying the same prices we would have paid to the heroes of yesteryear to people who aren’t taking those kinds of risks… or growing pot that good?

The Big, Green Grift

How have these people with less than a few years in the game put this shroud over the basic concepts of supply and demand with their midsy-mid pot?

First of all, there’s the dearth of experience. Because of the strict regulations that accompanied legalization, so many of the OGs aren’t even here anymore.

While a few faces that sold medical cannabis during the second Bush administration made it all the way to 2019, those faces recognize fewer people every year as more and more folks backed by big money attempt to edge their way in. The ones that made it to this point are still around because they grew extraordinary pot, or because they had exceptionally shrewd business practices and cleaned their money before it was permit time.

This has left the market vulnerable to newcomers, and as a result, companies have been able to coerce the buyers to pay stupid prices for B-list bud.

The idea that the $60 eighth still exists in the wild, outside of Beverly Hills, San Francisco and Mountain View, is absolutely ridiculous. We’ve spotted acclaimed and head-approved brands like Str8organics, The Village or The Jungle Boys charging 20 percent less than some of these mids mills on plenty of occasions.

Just last summer we purchased an eighth of Purple Punch, widely dubbed the 2017 Strain of the Year, for $45. Now, when we crack open midsy jars of mystery purple with an aroma that’s two parts grapes and eight parts lawnmower trimmings, we see that glaring $60 price tag for the John Deere Purps and think back to that $45 Purple Punch, struck with dismay at how these things can exist in the same realities.

Has the fabric of reality been torn in half, forcing us through some terribly drawn out storyline featuring now-overpriced marijuana? It can’t be just us. Sadly, we’re all in this dimension together.

But despair not. At the end of the day, we do hold some power, in that we have control over what it takes to make us take out our wallets. So basically, let your money talk and stop paying $60 for mids.

TELL US, how do you feel about the price of marijuana in your area?



  1. arskrg

    January 19, 2019 at 7:45 am

    Great deals can be found in MD medical dispensaries. I just bought an O of stuff that checks all the boxes for what I was looking for for $159. So stoked.

  2. Pam

    January 17, 2019 at 2:41 am

    $12-15 cost for an eighth of top notch flower here in Easthampton, MA at the local med dispensary that recently went recreational last month. I must say I love the convenience of shopping local, and legal, but am glad I have an MMJ card to avoid the high tax. Since we only have 3-4 legal shops in Massachusetts as of yet, I’m thrilled to have one within walking distance that offers quality and decent prices.

  3. Nathan

    January 14, 2019 at 12:29 am

    Whew! These comments! Sorry for the prices and lack of quality medicine.

    In Michigan right now, scores of dispensaries got shut down on Jan 1 and are haggling with the state department (LARA) for licensing.

    The closest open storefront is over 2 hours away from me for now. Prices are not bad though. Herb goes for 10/15/20 per gram, $20 to $45 for a 4 gram 8th. $100-$200 per oz, depending on quality.

    House wax or shatter as low as 10 g/$100, decent shatter 4g or 5g for $100. Live resin and other top shelf concentrates can still sell for upwards of $80 per gram, or $45 per half gram.

    I can medicate with about 1 g per week of decent shatter with my electric rig. Before New Years, I had to drive an hour to Lansing from Grand Rapids. Now the closest is 2 hours away, and an hour wait (formerly 5 to 10 mins) at the shop itself.

    Prices are decent, but state regulators and (a few) towns have unnecessarily put up roadblocks to access.

  4. Linda Dunlevy

    January 13, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    GROW YOUR OWN! It’s not that difficult.

  5. Maybe it’s just me

    January 13, 2019 at 4:19 pm

    Got the nicest $75 med ounce in CO. Plenty of C- legal weed around. Some med and I assume some rec weed is pretty good. Some decent weed is up to $150-&200/oz. No $60 eighths, LOL, check out Westword a free newspaper with many weed ads.

  6. Jane Goethel

    January 13, 2019 at 3:14 pm

    It’s 30 for an eighth here in AZ if you don’t get it on sale. I can get prerolls for six dollars and can get a ounce for 100 if I buy from a caregiver. Dispensaries want up to 300 a ounce and I feel it’s a rip off! Prices too high! Also you have to pay taxes! Many in the MM program not rich and barely getting by. Medical cannabis is many people’s medicine and lifeline. Shame on the industry for over charging!

  7. Kendra

    January 13, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    I live in Tucson, AZ. I am extremely disappointed in the dispensaries and what they have available to purchase. I grew up in Sacramento California and used to be able to buy Killer Green Bud (kgb), Purple Kush, off the hook stuff. I go to these dispensaries $10 to $14 for a gram. Flowers that doesn’t make you cough, expand your lungs wondering if you’re even getting a high, wondering if it’s even healing you, where does the shit come from? One of the reps from the dispensaries told me that if you don’t by the higher amounts you don’t get as good of flower in the smaller amounts like grams an eighths they put the better flowers in the higher amounts packages, which I think is just bullshit.
    Then there’s tax on top of these prices what a joke. So for me to get the medicine and the high I’m looking for I have to buy flower and concentrate or hash for the THC levels I’m used to in Black market cannabis. It’s ridiculous. I am 52 been using cannabis since I was 14 for female issues with pain. It IS a medicine. So I love how this medicine is such a rip-off at these new dispensaries but I can get an Rx prescription for anything most likely less than $20, and it’s poison. plus if I live within 25 miles of a dispensary I am not allowed to grow. We all looked forward to legalizing cannabis and all it is is a rip-off and worse to buy. I feel I knew where my stuff came from through my dealer, plus it was consistent and if I wanted the same stuff or close to it the dealer had it. I find something I like at a dispensary and within days now it’s gone poof never can get it again. Plus on the streets I got way better money deal and amounts than the stuff I get from these dispensaries I have no idea where this shit comes from and I pay more. How fucked up is that?
    It’s all about profit in this world nothing to help humans at all! America is going downhill real fast. Thanks for reading my two cents! 🙂

  8. Paul

    January 13, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    Alaska has gone through similar growing pains. Most decent varieties are sold for $60 an 1/8 th. A few places sell less popular breeds for $50 or 45. It seems that the legally grown is pushing the black market prices down while holding there own ground.
    Alaska law allows for each adult 6 plants at home. Limited to 12 plants per household. This gives the option to grow your own. Now it seems the problem is getting seeds. There are some clones available in limited supply however seeds are not available for $ale?

  9. Scott Lewis

    January 13, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    I live in Pennsylvania and we have had medical cannabis for about a year now. Prices are anywhere from $45 to $65/eighth and that’s the largest size available. We aren’t allowed to see what we are buying. If you want to buy a strain you tell them and they hand you a box with the strain in it. It cant be opened there, so we end up paying $65 for mystery box that gets opened once home. I have on many occasions paid $65 for cannabis that smells like wet straw and it’s so dry it turns to dust if you close your hand on it. When compared to California it sounds like it’s not all that bad out there.

  10. Jim

    January 13, 2019 at 11:46 am

    Way too high.

  11. SoObviousItHurts

    January 13, 2019 at 9:58 am

    At the current moment what is apparent is that legalization has most benefited the large corporations able to succeed in the new market. While proposed as a force for good, legalization has helped neither the consumer nor the farmer in any great way. Seeing as it is still illegal federally, the criminal aspect has not been reduced greatly for the honest producer or consumer. In California, medical provision already allowed for legal farming and purchase/consumption/possession of marijuana. Under the new legislation, most of these farmers have been put completely out of business, or are suffering greatly trying to afford the ludicrous regulations and fees. Although those may be an argument solely for environmental benefit, that should and could have been accomplished without the new laws. What is apparent is that people are paying the SAME prices as before legalization, while farmers are forced to sell for huge losses comparatively. What was once a $1500-2400 a pound price – give or take a few hundred based on quality – is now being forced to sell for $500 a pound. All this while farmers suffer the burden of tens of thousands of dollars in licenses and fees forced upon them by legalization. The only players who can tolerate a situation like that and survive are the businesses with no moral investment in marijuana or its benefits, but solely corporate profits and greed. It is only those companies with insane amount of capitol and the ability to lose for years before seeing profits. Almost no traditional farmer true to the plant or its benefits can afford that. Many are losing their livelihoods and have been forced to close their doors. So in the end, legalization has done what anyone intelligent would know: benefited wealthy corporations above all else. That is not to say legalization doesn’t have SOME benefits to the common person, environment, or farmer. Certainly crime should go down, environmental toxicity should go down, safety of product should increase, legal ramifications for citizens should decrease and other results. However, when looking at the goal of THIS particular legislation and the fact that farmers must sell for record low while consumers buy for equally high, it is obvious this wasn’t designed to help those parties. When large corporations are the only ones able to afford to stay in business while they enter with little to no knowledge of proper cannabis corporation, it is obvious this bill was designed for them. We could have achieved very similar results modifying previous legislation to get the goals this law promised. We could have waited for a BETTER law to be drawn up: one that protected small business and benefitted consumers, while also providing greater environmental protection and safety – both criminally and health-wise. Truthfully, examine the results today and let your conscious decide. Like all political agendas that promise great things for the common person, the environment, or the small business and yield results in favor or major business interests like pharmaceuticals and the like… YOU, the American citizen, were conned again.

    • Graeme Scott

      January 13, 2019 at 5:26 pm

      Yes I agree ; I was blind when I went into Licensing my Farm in Humboldt. Now I have pay the Price for my naïveté, I grew Top quality Weed like I have for 30 years and yet only getting 800 per pound which doesn’t pay my Costs. I’m hanging on only to get my Calif Annual License then I’m forced to Sell. There are No Jobs that pay enough in my area to meet the Cost Of Living because all Prices of Goods and Services are Inflated. This Hurts.

  12. Mr. Green thumb

    January 13, 2019 at 9:40 am

    NM prices are the same if not higher! We can’t afford it so were forced to purchase our medicine from the black market that is unregulated or unsafe with no testing. And when a dispo in another state has products testing positive for pesticides and herbicides they dump they’re product in another state and don’t care about the people it’s affecting. People are losing teeth and hair from using contaminated cannibus oil cartridges,edibls, flower etc! We need people to take this serious and not just see dollar signs. This plant has been around for thousands of years and never used to gain currencies it is here for our healing! Wake up and think about human life before you think about a [email protected]#$&ng profit! .

  13. Shawn Horton

    January 13, 2019 at 9:00 am

    I live in northeast Alabama 10 years ago I was paying 50$ a qrtr for high end bud now it’s over 120$ for a qrtr for stuff that’s nowhere near as good even though it’s everywhere these days what happend to supply and demand ?

  14. Diclautriv

    January 13, 2019 at 7:53 am

    Honestly, I can get it at a better price with a friend that fly under the legal radar. Although not having the selection of a shop, I can get double the amount for less than they charge for an eight.

    • Tom don

      January 13, 2019 at 11:58 am

      haha true I get a Quad for that…in Illinois.. used to get a ounce from cali for 200..Top quality. This is b.s. if you paying that you’re getting ripped off

  15. Blunter

    January 13, 2019 at 7:46 am

    Not entirely surprising. In NJ today, medical patients are paying 2-3x black market prices for mediocre product, approximately $450-600 an oz. If you tack on the 14% tax and supply-demand upcharge when it eventually becomes legal, it gets into the realm of 4x black market prices. You can’t undo a near centuries worth of prohibition in a year’s time with such a heavily regulated market, prices are at least normal in California and having black market prices in the first year of legalization is quite impressive, especially in California where black market prices were already driven to countrywide lows.

  16. Al

    January 13, 2019 at 4:02 am

    Minnesota Medical Marijuana is highly over priced and to me considered mid’s to low level and the edibles offer no help. Colorado Medical is actually medicine and at less then a third of Minnesota’s price. Sometimes feel as if I’m throwing money out the window.

  17. Franke

    January 12, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    I run a legal shop in southern California long beach an the problem with pricing I see at retail level is the tax if the government was not choking out the grass roots of this industry things would be alot better. I’m all for legilzation I have been a advocate for over 20 years from seed to now legal sale. If we dont stand toghter an rally for lower taxes big pharma will swoop in an crush us all. Major corporations with holdings in many states can afford high licensce fees an high taxes. But those guys are only on it for numbers an profit margins. If we let that happen then the flower an the consumer will suffer with inferior products mass produced garbage an no option but the black market. And if that happens then what did we come out of the darkness an pay for with all these taxes an licensce fees but our own demise. I have came across this country to be part of movement to bring the flower to the people an help those who we could never before. I get to do that everyday in my shop and it makes all worth wild but I hope the dream I’m living does not become a nightmare..

  18. Roseanne

    January 12, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    Well, this law sure takes the cake from Department of Alcohol Beverage Control. Illegal Marijuana was how they force bars and clubs owners pay for the extremely high fines if they want to keep the business open. This law also allowed people to grow at home and not be afraid. Why buy when you can grow it?

    • Richard Paul Steeb

      January 14, 2019 at 6:27 pm

      Why buy when you can grow it? Maybe because it’s lab-tested for THC content and pesticides etc. Maybe because growing it successfully is DIFFICULT. (Spider mites, fungus gnats, powdery mildew, etc. etc). OTOH, excessive taxes *guarantee* black market production and sales.

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