What's Your Best Buy: Illegal Street Weed? Or Legal in the Shop?

Black market may be cheaper, for now. Beware the hidden costs.

Making informed weed-consumption decisions is simultaneously easier and tougher than ever. How many nights have you spent what felt like hours on apps such as Weedmaps, in search of the best local price for legal weed?

You really might be wasting your time scouring dispensary details, like truly and actually flushing those moments that pass like quarter-hours down the temporal toilet.

According to new data from analytics tracking company Perfect Price, a crafty pot shopper could probably find a better deal on bud on the black market. One takeaway from analyzing the pricing of nearly 6,000 legal marijuana retailers is that the incentive to turn to illegal sources still exists for a number of cannabis consumers in America. 

From Perfect Price

“Across all dispensaries, the average cost for marijuana [in the middle] range is about $260. . .With an average of $214 for an ounce, Oregon is the state with the least expensive legal marijuana. The city with the least expensive dispensary marijuana in the United States is Aurora, Colorado, at an average price of $192.20. This suburb of Denver is the only market where an ounce of quality marijuana costs less than $200.”

In general, illegal weed in these states retails at appreciable fractions less per measure. In a sense, the variance in price is to be expected.

After all, the corner weed dealer doesn’t face the same overhead that a dispensary or retailer might. In states where legal marijuana is being sold medically or recreationally, the establishments doing so pay regulatory fees and face operational costs comparable to or higher than what any other business might expect. 

Regulated dispensaries are responsible for rent, employee payroll, insurance, and placing minimum orders with vendors, which can tie up thousands of dollars, just to maintain inventory on hand. Furthermore, legal weed establishments pay for attorneys to make sure they stay as such

In Colorado, the application fee to begin the process of opening a marijuana retail store is $5,000. In Hawaii, aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs are required to give proof of $1 million cash fluidity, with an additional $100,000 for each planned dispensary.

As the retail side of cannabis sees more regulation, the pressure for dispensaries and weed shops to have their product tested by independent labs is mounting, and will likely be mandatory in the future. This costs money. The same money that the dude on the corner selling dime bags is not spending to test his “fire kush, bro.” 

In California, lawmakers ceased issuing business tax certificates to marijuana businesses while the state determines how it will regulate a legal recreational market. How many black market weed dealers are reporting their earnings or filing taxes on trees?

Screenshot via The KIND

Chris Rowe, an entrepreneur with plans of opening a delivery service previously told The Kind, "The monetary cost of these licenses has yet-to-be-determined, and could potentially be a barrier to small businesses that are just now looking to enter the industry." 

Table via Perfect Price

Naturally, some of this financial burden will be passed down to the consumer via an extra two-to-three-dollars-per-gram.

Even if the immediate price of cannabis is less expensive on the street than in-store, the hidden costs of purchasing illicit drugs—potential jail time, man-hours spent hunting down a dealer, getting burned on shitty weed—are potentially far greater.