Okay so you have your medical card…No more shady back-alley transactions, no more bags of schwag from your dealer…The black market is fully in the rear-view mirror, and now you are ready for an upgrade of sorts in your medicated lifestyle. This prelude is common amongst newly minted medical patients in the Southern California medical marijuana scene.
Medically valid or not, more and more are getting their medical cards and quasi-legally contributing to California’s economical gold mine. You would think one dispensary in Eagle Rock, CA with a $40 limit on all 1/8 amounts also known as a “cap” would blow away the competition and cause a medical marijuana monopoly. However, more often than not, there are neighboring collectives either down the street, around the block, or right next door. How could this be? If one dispensary has better quality at a lower price, why go next door? Unbeknownst to most, price and quality should be but is not everything. Dispensary incentives are commonplace in the industry and are fiscal attempts to offset places that have caps within the $60 range.
At it its peak, Los Angeles County alone had nearly 700 dispensaries dispersed throughout the region. A number this high is especially impressive considering that numerous cities within the county have locally banned medical dispensaries (Pasadena, Calif. being a prime example). These geographical exclusions create an economic bottleneck where collectives are literally next door to each other. Can’t open up shop in Pasadena? Let’s go to Eagle Rock. With more and more people attaining medical cards, there is simply too much demand for one collective to supply. When someone from Pasadena makes that drive to Eagle Rock the difference between top shelf strains becomes semantics and an extra $10 usually makes an eager patient look elsewhere. The interesting part is that collective owners seem to welcome the competition. In an attempt to more or less outdo each other, free gifts and new patient deals have become commonplace, and more and more collectives are using inventive methods to entice patients.
Any medical patient knows of the “free joint” and patient referral deals and if you’re lucky you’ll even get a free gram of medication. A recent trend has developed where some collectives have you clip a clone off a mother plant and then place the cutting in rock wool. American Eagle Collective in Eagle Rock, CA has started this trend and many have followed suit. The patients then have a choice to take the clone home and cultivate it themselves or donate it to the collective. Some spots even offer to propagate and root the clone for the patient. This is an attempt to make the patient officially a part of the collective but also an attempt to keep them coming back. You really think a medical patient will come back to a collective two weeks later to pick up their rooted clone and simply ignore the numerous vacuum-sealed jars of medication? It makes the patient feel welcome while at the same time indirectly making the patient return. Not to say that there is anything wrong with this method but it needs to be placed into a different realm when it comes to competition.
Collective owners often know each other by name and arrange business hours in order to ensure a steady flow of business (the Christmas season for example). Not to say that a spot with a $40 cap will not cause a neighboring spot to lower their prices. One spot may not out and out lower their cap but may add a $40 eighth special on one of their top shelf strains. Or another may add and extra gram or two to their eighths. In my experience these methods have been for the benefit of the patient (me included) and most collectives I frequent are some of the most compassionate in the business. Unfortunately when you venture deeper into the heart of downtown, the compassion is often left in the foothills.
The medical marijuana scene in Downtown Los Angeles often cast a long and shady shadow. Patients often walk into shoddy multi-leveled strip malls with inadequate parking and seedy bystanders. A typical place downtown has a well-stocked menu with a variety of top, middle and bottom shelf strains that often collectively number in the 50+.
One collective has over 20 Ox along with the rest of their collection. Sounds good right? As always, there’s a catch…some collectives have come up with the so called “happy hour” deal that cunningly lures patients during specific hours so they can get unfathomable deals (by So Cal standards) like 7g for $50. Unfortunately when they advertise these deals on various websites and within magazines, they fail to mention that most of these deals are for mid shelf medication and under. 7 grams of stress is not bad by any means but when you drive through the raceway that is the 110 freeway and finally find parking, and you expect 7 grams of higher quality and you get stress. Ouch. Are you really going to go back to your car and go somewhere else? Good luck. The collective down the street has the same deal but only an hour later. So what is a duped patient to do? Well right next to the stress they have top shelf Ogs at $50 an eighth and $15 a gram. Why not bite the bullet and buy some dank meds? After looking for parking for hours in the windy streets of downtown, some patients just relent.
Trust me, the collectives know this. Call it shoddy business practices or false advertising; there isn’t exactly a MMJ Better Business Bureau. Some do it because they can get away with it, others have patient deals because they care. It’s up to the patient to decide and those choices cause ripples that can cause another’s water to be choppy. If people continue to be duped or fall for these practices, they will continue their same behavior. On the other side of the coin, if we frequent those who are compassionate, they will continue their compassion. MMJ in most respects is like anything else, give and take. They give because we take, they supply because we demand. Next time you are at a new collective ask about their new patient deals or ask what their cap is. If its not to your liking, don’t fret, you can always go next door….
Written by Dena420 for Issue 3 of Cannabis Now Magazine