As recreational pot became legal in California this week, locals lined up outside of dispensaries to get their hands on cute little mason jars filled with legal weed.
Anyone over 21 in the Golden State can now possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and they also have the option of growing up to six plants at home. For those with less of a green thumb, the option to now buy recreational weed over the counter might be enticing.
How will consumers fare now that weed is going above ground? Well, it depends on who you’re buying it from. Despite marijuana’s mainstreaming, an underground market for pot lives on — and it’s a lot cheaper.
Tawnie Logan, the chairwoman of the board of the California Growers Association, told The New York Times in September that the black market price for an eighth of an ounce is around $20.
When it comes to dispensary weed, GreenState, a digital publication devoted to cannabis culture, paints a pricier picture. They say that the price of weed will depend a lot on what stores decide is a healthy increase to contend with California’s new marijuana taxation laws, but that on average, consumers are looking at a price hike of around eight dollars. Based on a number of California stores they investigated, the cost for an eighth will now range from around $50 to $65.
The rising cost in taxed legal bud could actually boost the black market, according to the global credit ratings firm Fitch Rating, who released a report in October:
High tax rates raise prices in legal markets, reinforcing the price advantage of black markets. California’s black markets for cannabis were well established long before its voters legalized cannabis in November 2016 and are expected to dominate post-legalization production.
The estimated prices across the state also check out with data from Priceofweed.com, a site that crowdsources user submissions to generate estimates on the costs of weed around the world. In California, the site estimates that the cost is currently around an average of $32.06 — likely a combo of the legal and black market weed available, with almost all user submissions coming in before recreational weed went legit on January 1. As an interesting comparison, the U.S. average for an eighth of “high quality” weed sits around $40, according to their findings. The lower-than-average price in California can be attributed to the supply and demand nature of marijuana; the state has long been known for its bountiful crops of bud.