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Tag Archives: drug war
It’s logical to assume that when a product goes from illegal to legal, its street price drops. But not with medical marijuana. Colorado medical marijuana patients are discovering what California patients have known for years: legal pot is more expensive. From NPR:
“We found that if you go to a dispensary, it’s more expensive,” he says. “You go through a buddy, least expensive. Speaks for itself.”
There’s no consumer price index for pot in Denver, but police commander Jerry Peters has a pretty good idea of the cost. He heads a drug task force in the metro area.
“An ounce of marijuana goes anywhere between $270, $280 to about $400 an ounce… that we’re seeing in the different dispensaries,” Peters says. “In the black market, though, when … we buy an ounce of marijuana, it’s about 150 bucks.”
The biggest thing that communities fear when a dispensary comes to their town is not the spectre of stoned citizens giggling hysterically as they wolf down a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, it’s the possibility that the medicine sold at the dispensary will end up being re-sold on the streets. Every California dispensary I have been to makes a point of telling new members that re-distribution is strictly prohibited; usually I’ve had to initial that paragraph, but it’s been in a prominent place on just about every collective Membership Agreement I’ve seen (and I’ve seen dozens).
This fear of re-distribution exerts an upward pressure on prices in a number of ways. First, the dispensary has to compete with the black market for product, so they have to offer attractive prices to growers. Next, the dispensary has to price the product near or above the local street price in order to discourage resale by unscrupulous patients. Then, the dispensary has a host of other costs to cover: rent, utilities, taxes, payroll, etc.
Put it all together and you can see why a dispensary will never be able to compete with a street dealer on price. It’s ironic that while full legalization would drive prices downward, semi-legalization has had the exact opposite effect.
UPDATE: Joe at the 420 Times makes this point, which I should have remembered to include in my post:
“The marijuana you can buy at a dispensary is generally of much better quality than marijuana on the street. You can get carefully grown strains that target specific symptoms, and since the medicine is so much better, you can consume less of it. Also as she points out, it’s safer; if you’ve ever been to a bad neighborhood trying to score some weed, you know what she’s talking about.”
Indeed. The selection and quality at the dispensaries is quite good, and the shopping experience is generally fun, comfortable and safe. Those are all worth paying a bit more for, but the prices are still artificially propped up by the coexistence of a licit and illicit market.
UPDATE II: I also forgot to include in my post that, adding insult to injury, the relaxation of drug laws has also had the effect of driving street prices down relative to the dispensaries. The risks associated with selling marijuana on the street in California and Colorado are not as high as they are in states like Indiana or Oklahoma. This means that pot dealers can bring their prices down even further relative to the dispensaries, which still have all of the above to pay for, while street dealers have almost no overhead to worry about.
In May a federally-funded anti-drug task force seized up to ten sheets of signatures for a marijuana legalization initiative from Washington state residents as “evidence” in a raid against Tacoma’s North End Club 420. Law enforcement has returned two of the sheets (after photocopying them and refusing to destroy the photocopies), but the 420 Club insists that there were 10 sheets in total.
The officers involved are claiming that it was all a mistake, and that they have no problem destroying the photocopies; they just need “an agreement between the prosecution and the defense” to do so.
The question remains, however: why did they seize the petitions in the first place? Why didn’t they return them immediately, if indeed they had made a mistake in seizing them in the first place? What guarantees do the citizens who signed that petition, as they have every right to do without fear of recrimination, have that their names have not been filed away somewhere in police headquarters?
Many are concerned the seizure of petition signatures will put a chilling affect on efforts to get marijuana legalization on the ballot. WestNet’s work is likely to intimidate legalization supporters who now stand only a few weeks away from the signature filing deadline in June.
It’s also an appalling affront to first amendment rights. The seizure of petition signatures in favor of legalizing marijuana by a federally-funded drug task force has effectively silenced the voices of hundreds of voters who signed the petition, only to have their signatures “lost” during the raid.
This is not a marijuana issue; it’s a constitutional issue. Democracy is meaningless if the government can intimidate the citizens who exercise their democratic rights.
FDL has a petition. Sign it.