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What Drives Medical Marijuana Prices In California?

When you take the time to look at what’s really going on with the suppliers of medical marijuana these days it’s no wonder that there is so much political opposition to medical marijuana dispensaries. What is really going on in the medical marijuana supply scene? GREED. When the people passed Proposition 215, they did so believing that the spirit of the law they were voting for would be followed, and it would mean that seriously ill people would be able to obtain and use a natural medicine to relieve their suffering. They never intended to give rise to huge profit machines that only benefit those with the ability to grow and distribute medical marijuana. As we look around the State of California, though, we begin to see that the spirit of the law that people so readily supported to help the suffering is falling by the wayside to make room for PROFIT. Proposition 215 was written to allow people with the ability to grow medical marijuana to grow their own supply of medicine without fear of arrest. The law also intends to allow those persons to grow additional medicinal marijuana for others that are not able to grow it for themselves. The growers are supposed to provide the medical marijuana to those individuals at a price which allows them to recover their operating expenses (and maybe even make a small profit), but it was never intended to give rise to operations where the growers and distributers of the medical marijuana charge overinflated prices to those individuals who can least afford it. All anyone has to do is look at the prices that are being charged by the medical marijuana growers and distributers in dispensaries all over California. Medical marijuana is averaging $60 for an eighth of an ounce, and there is no way that such prices can be justified without factoring in huge profit margins. It is so often said that the medical marijuana suppliers of today are simply charging what they have to in order to keep afloat. What doesn't add up is that you can buy marijuana almost anywhere on the streets for around $5 - $10 per eighth ounce while supposedly legitimate providers are charging around $60 for the same amount. Medical marijuana providers use the excuse that they have a lot of expenses like lighting, utilities, security, etc., and so they have to charge that much to cover their costs of operations. I ask you though… Who actually has the greater operating expenses; those who grow legally or those who grow illegally? Medical marijuana providers no longer have to hide in the shadows to produce their product; they can grow it freely and they can organize in public storefronts and can advertise openly if they so choose. Shouldn't their operating expenses be quite a bit lower than those for the illegal growers who still have to hide their operations and activities in order to avoid arrest and prosecution, and that loose so much of their crops every year to police raids? That brings us to wonder again why legitimate medical marijuana providers are charging six times or more what illegal growers are. There is one answer that keeps rearing its ugly head; GREED.

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Ca. med. mj article

I find your article HIGHLY inacurate....

as a cardholding med mj user in CA. for the last 9 years, i have had the pleasure of getting to see many cannabis clubs..... you might find $60 eighths but most are $40 OR LESS (as low as $10 an eighth). I would assume an acurate average would be closer to $30 an eighth!

also Where in the world? can you find $5 or $10 eighths on the street?????
Please let me know cuz i will head there imediately......and even if you could find that price, it's probably dirt weed.
where i come from the street cost just as much as the clubs but on the street you dont have to go to another city to get it!

Discrepancy with your article

Not sure where you are paying 5-10 dollars for a bag of nice herb but let me know. I do agree that the medical marijuana act and subsequent federal memorandum that stayed the federal prosecutorial powers should have lowered retail costs for dispensaries. However, every single dispensary must pay for it's staff(including security), building(rent), electricity, permits, taxes(where applicable), and any retail device used in display(cases, lights to examine products, shelves, store room, jars, bags). It's always been a better idea to do it yourself, but some folks don't have that convenience or time and a retail price(obviously inflated) is the most convenient and effective way to distribute a still illegal(under federal law) product. I would say an average size grow operation(3 1000 watt lamps flowering), after recouping grow equipment expenditures, would produce marijuana for somewhere around $50 or less an oz. It is a time intensive process to produce high grade marijuana, so obviously that time needs to be factored into the equation. Like I said before, where are you getting headies for 5-10 dollars a slice?

$10 an eigth?

Where did this twit get these prices? I can't find moldy brown for less than 20! Do your homework next time. U just don't think its right that people make ANY money on medical mj. Fresh Greenbud goes for no less than 30 an eighth on the street and that's just the stuff that people grow illegally.
$10 an eighth... Who are u tryin to fool jackass?

Wildly Inaccurate

Having direct experience in the Sea of Green method of production, I can say that you're estimate of cost/labor/materials=$5-$10/3.5g "retail" is absurd. Even a large indoor operation(500-1000)plants cannot be sustained by those street prices. Not by a looooong shot. Those prices reflect 1970 high grade sinsemilla. $5-10/28g for low grade dirty weed. Id like to give you the benefit of the doubt and believe you didnt just pull those street values out of you rear end. Nope sorry, you made that up.

"I personally think a more

"I personally think a more than fair price that shows compassion, taking into account the minimal cost to grow (and adding administrative and overhead costs), would be in the $100.00 to $150.00 an ounce range."

If my actual "cost" of production is $16.35/oz, wholesale to the dispensary would be at least $49.50/oz. This is assuming I am a sole operator and have no "employees", rent or food to pay for. Production is a full time job. "Wholesale" Price could be as much as $75-$100/oz. Still amazingly cheap. Now the dispensary needs to pay the bills as well, and even a non-profit makes some money. A reasonable markup over "wholesale" would be a factor of 2.5. $250/oz. $31.25/3.5g is significantly cheaper than street price and approaching a real life OTC price. $10-$15/g is a fair price for medicine.

On to the future of production. As more compassion centers b(l)oom, and demand increases exponentially, the small growers will be absorbed by ever larger industrial facilities. Those who are >1 acre outdoor, >2400 sq feet in doors, and of course the "back bedroom" growers will gradually fade. This inevitable expansion will furthur drive the OTC Price down, and one day we may see the $3.50/g head stash. Some folks will continue to grow their own as regulations are relaxed, though most will pay OTC. If I were a budding entrepeneur, I may look into the future of refining(hash/oils) or branding strains.

Here's the Cost

A friend of a friend of mine decided to figure it out himself... using four 600 watt HPS lights covering 14 plants grown in organic soil pots, he ended up with 2.5 pounds of very good quality smoke after 100 days, with the ability to replicate this 3.5 times per year. Adding up the costs for a single harvest, not including the initial purchase of lighting equipment, which would include electricity used (14 hours per day average at 15 cents per kilowatt hour), water used, cost of pots (resusable), potting mix, and fertilizer... his total cost for 2.5 pounds was $654.00.

Or $261.60 per pound. Or $16.35 per ounce, cost. If he were to sell at a wholesale of $4400.00 per pound, his gross is $11,000.00. If he were to sell retail at $400.00 per ounce, his gross is $16,000.00. Minus $654.00 equals a nice net either way. The initial purchase price for the lighting equipment is between $1200 and $1500.00 and can be used for 10 to 15 years with only bulbs to replace every 2 years.

This friend of a friend wasn't a novice grower, but doesn't consider himself a "professional" by any stretch of the imagination. So at a middle of the road cost of $16.35 per ounce, the authors gripe seems to be justified, especially when viewed in the true sense of "compassion". Obviously, medical marijuana isn't covered by prescription coverage or health care plans, so I personally think a more than fair price that shows compassion, taking into account the minimal cost to grow (and adding administrative and overhead costs), would be in the $100.00 to $150.00 an ounce range.

Thanks for these numbers

Greed and weed don't match.

For an intelligent way to incorporate hemp back into our society so we can use it as the empowerment tool the Lord intended it to be, visit the USA Hemp Museum, and check out the HEMP FOR VICTORY books you'll find there.

Friend Of a friend BullSh##

you are completely insane if you think medical mj can be grown for 650.per pound. Maybe if you new what you were talking about before you open your mouth and let the ignorance fall out. It hybrid street weed is 3 to 6 % THC medical is organic street weed isnt medical is taxed street isnt and medical averages 18% in thc . Marinal a legal over the counter prescribed medication of thc sells for $920.00 for 60 pills 5 mg per pill. the same amount of thc sells at a co-op for under $150.00

your comments on pricing

I really appreciate the work that you have done to document and clearly outline the cost of medical marijuana.  The greed being displayed at these state created monopolies is ridiculous.  MMAR out in Canada is able to charge patients, 30.00 for outdoor and 90.00 for outdoor grown medicine.  I simply cannot afford to pay 400.00 per oz.

Comment on Pricing ...


   We believe; that their initial structure of any business is a business that will give promise to Profit.  Product selection has no bearing whether saturated with Legals or taxed as a Retail. You ; did fail to mention where your friend is located in the effort to make a descertion of State where it is legal or legal many people need to KNOW ... as to turn the tide on approval and accepting / acknowledged facts that MMJ business is a good thing. Debt rears its Ulgy head, in order to persuade the Consumer into deeper debt ... there has to be a relief ... wise politicians and others around the World may have to re-think the Medical Tourist...when it comes to hand carried Rx into Good Lands which do not favor a policy of treatment and abolish the entire gambit of increased proceeds which are from outside sales and any worth Passporting program which may have to include a Hologram of ( Logo*, ) The Canibus Leaf somewhere conservatively placed on the introduction of the Passport which with married to the Medical Card issued by bonefide doctors and Hospitals will designate and delegate a reason for entry into the Touriing GOOD LAND without penalty, or drug related arrest as those which may reside there.

I have asked your permission if I can take the costs and use them in my business-plan? Please Send an Email to me with some Start-up Guidelines whether or not it is wise to Agrigrow in-house ( expenses ) and others which may be land use and application approval for financing... at this time there is relatively NONE !! ... and we will need this definitely in the Future ... so far 14 states approve of the MMJ business we would have to begin THINKING about the Foreign Tourist, and there reception of our traveling to their good lands which can translate into a 30 - 48% profit margin for Transportation, and Building of Commercial Schools , Churches, and others which will increase the desire of others that visit the Country and make their desire to stay ( about 6 - 8% ) ... to have the things that they find most comforting to them Schools, Churches Transportation, and Customs, or Foods...

1/8ths for $5-10?

I don't know where you're from, but you can't get high quality cannabis (the only safe kind in my opinion, and the only kind that is useful medically) for $5-10 on the streets. Maybe you can get nasty, Mexican garbage pot for that price. On the streets, people charge $50 an eighth on the cheap side, $70 on the higher side. I don't know if these dispensaries are making a huge profit or are forced to sell at $60 just to stay afloat. I do agree that a legit price for a 1/8th of medical pot is probably somewhere around $30, but that would be with no profit whatsoever.

Adding to above post

I wanted to add to my above post and just say that I think $25-30 per eighth is a fair price, but they would still be able to make a profit off of that.

In response to the person who said that his grower friend can only repeat the process 3.5 times per year, this is not true. Cannabis growers use a technique called "cloning" which shaves off a huge amount of time and allows them to generally harvest once per month or once every 2 weeks if they have a perpetual grow going which I'm sure that all medical dispensaries or their suppliers do. With a perpetual grow, dispensaries suppliers can harvest anywhere from 1-4lbs spending less than $500 in most cases or $1000 with higher-quality, professional equipment.

If they were truly doing it out of compassion and nothing else (which I'm not sure is possible, given that they have to stay afloat monetary wise) they could practically give the stuff away without much trouble.

Edit From Above

"On to the future of production. As more compassion centers b(l)oom, and demand increases exponentially, the small growers will be absorbed by ever larger industrial facilities. Those who are >1 acre outdoor, >2400 sq feet in doors, and of course the "back bedroom" growers will gradually fade. This inevitable expansion will furthur drive the OTC Price down, and one day we may see the $3.50/g head stash. Some folks will continue to grow their own as regulations are relaxed, though most will pay OTC. If I were a budding entrepeneur, I may look into the future of refining(hash/oils) or branding strains."

> meant to be

Meant to be "

Meant to be " < Less Than". Big difference.

about time!

Yes, its ALL ABOUT GREED. I could understand if they charged that when the club was first starting up, but for gods sake, what do they think patients are, MADE OF MONEY? I quit the whole club scene, because I can get it much cheaper from friends. Besides, my friends usually let me try the weed first, but the clubs have sold me weed in the past that was junk! It looked good, but I actually got pissed once and went back to the club, and demanded a trade in or refund. They refused. So I left the crap behind. I told them too, that I have a lot of experience with cannabis, and I know the good from the bad. Anyways, ROCK ON to who wrote this article, except for the part about 10 dollar eighths, har har har! : )

thawkinsjr's picture

As for $10 eights...

All I can add to this is that here in Fresno, CA, I can easily find Mexican brown weed for about $130 a quarter pound on the streets. So that averages out to what... about $8.13 or so per eighth.

Granted, it is dirt weed that can never compare to good quality medical cannabis, but consider this...

There's a patient that can only afford to spend about $100 - $150 per month on medicine. This patient knows that without at least a daily dose their medicine they will be violently ill and vomiting.

Now that patient considers whether they should buy the Q.P. of brown, which they know will at least baseline keep them from throwing up and will last all month, or do they buy a quarter ounce or so of medical grade cannabis that will be nicer to smoke but will only last maybe a week (leaving them to puke for three weeks)?

I'm sure there are a lot of medical marijuana patients out there who face this very dilemma every month.


Tommy Hawkins Jr.
Americans for Safe Access Fresno Chapter Community Liaison

The ultimate wisdom is knowing that you know nothing. - Socrates

borden's picture

sliding scales?

I haven't specifically looked into this, but I imagine that many of the dispensaries offer sliding scale arrangements, using the higher amounts paid by those who can afford it to subsidize others who can't.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

RE: sliding scales?

I was under the impression that things were supposed to be set up that way, too, but I have yet to see it here in the San Joaquin Valley.

I joined a private "collective" here and was happy at first to donate about $200 per month and volunteer in many capacities, but it was eventually not nearly enough for them, and my medicine supply was cut off abruptly.

I was finally to the point (almost three years after my diskectomy on 04-17-2007) where I was free of the MS-Contin and MSIR just from using cannabis olive oil as a rub-on (approx. 16 oz. per month or less) and smoking 1/4 - 1/2 ounce per week, or so. I have also been cleared by "psych" services after a 12 year (recent) history of manic depression because I am finally free of all that due to medicinal cannabis use.

My muscles have now started to atrophy, though, so I don't think this will be an issue for me much longer.

I have since had to go back on Morphine (MS-Contin 30mg x 3 day, MSIR 30mg x 4 day) for the pain from my spinal injury (column and cord damage).

The people I worry about are those who are suffering far worse than I and have nobody to help them....or even care.

Clarification of Identity in Above Reply

I forgot that the form reset on me, but I wanted to make sure and identify myself as the poster of the above response: RE: sliding scales?

Tommy Hawkins Jr.

Green Revolution

Great comments. Isn't the simple solution the best solution? Why not empower everyone to grow their own medicinal cannabis outdoors. It will be better for the environment, cheaper, and with enough buy-in can overwhelm supply and carve out a market of niche growers that can still charge a premium for their products.

Power to the people! Make medicinal cannabis free!

Look Im from Louisiana. I've

Look Im from Louisiana. I've bought and sold weed for many years now. From bobby brown, to White widow. I've bought weed from $40 an ounce (for some really good swag) and I've paid $500 an ounce for White Widow.. It's all in the quality of the weed. Those on the streets are selling garbage compared to what those who are legal are selling.

Two Things

1) Taxes. Government is demanding their cut more and more, regarding dispensaries as convenient and vulnerable cash cows for financing even bigger Big Government. Cali cities are particularly bad about this now. Just who's pocket do you think this comes out of? Similar to casino taxes.

2) Grower overhead. Even possession of seeds will get you jail time. MMJ states might nominally allow it, but I know of no states that have a mechanism for authorizing a commercial grow-op that could supply a dispensary with consistent, high-quality, and professionally-grown product. On the contrary, all states have considerable prison-time penalties, some mandatory if they catch you growing MJ, even a plant or two. And the cops are constantly urging folks to report others in order to "fight the dope dealers".

Surely you aren't suggesting folks risk a felony and automatic prison time just out of the goodness of their heart, are you? Risk = reward. Founding principle of capitalism.

i just got some AK47+OG KUSH

i just got some AK47+OG KUSH from a friend both 20 pound an eighth. Which is about $26 Which is pretty good dont ya think. I wouldn't waste my time smoking swag weed :D

felonies dont come for free. grow ops still get robbed/raided!!!

i know people who have done fed time behind growing for the cause. i know people who have been robbed while their harvest was drying. i know people who have been taken down for a piddly 8 light setup, and had to choose between letting it all go and spending ridiculous amounts of time in court to get back their property that the law clearly says they have a right to have. anything can happen to a grower out here and i dont care who you are, its never completely safe, not yet at least. those that do grow are putting their asses on the line, hopefully in a responsible fashion, so that the end run consumer can get something they either greatly appreciate or dearly need.

the day that growing becomes completely safe, well, Phillip J Morris has purchased hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Mendocino, Humboldt, Shasta and Trinity Counties. The frontline grower who actually stood up to the people who were willing to imprison anyone affiliated with the cause will potentially be phased out, and the corporation that has - according to court rulings at least - intentionally lied and deceived the public about the reality of their product will probably become the nations largest producer of cannibis, if we allow it to become all the way legalized.

long story short, if you really cant afford to pay $300 an ounce, youve went to the collectives explaining your situation and they arent compensating you with a sliding scale (many will actually do this as far as i understand), and you arent in a position to grow yourself, then go out and find yourself a personal caretaker, buy them the necessary supplies

- intial layout expenses - $1160
300 - 1000w light
100 - 4x4 tray
40 - tray stand
40 - 35 gal Reservoir
20 - water pump & hose
10 - air pump & hose
20 - 2 outlet timer
30 - osc wall fan
300 - can filter w 6" exhaust fan (Security is a MUST)
225 - first series of clones @ 15 each
30 - clone dome, heat mat, cloning cubes
45 - mother for producing clones

- cyclical expenses - $400

45 - 15 6' rockwool cubes
200 - nutrients (semi random hi end estimate but cost should not exeed this much for 1 cycle)
148.50 - electricity @ 15c / kwh for 25 days veg(18hr) 45 days flowering (12hr)

Now if you do things well you will come back with 1lb in ~70 days, but not everyone will do so well their first time. your paper money cost will be around 1600 for the first cycle and 400 for each additional cycle, but i can tell you that these kind of budgets are deceptive because the incidental expenses that must come in - scissors, measuring cups and syringes, floramite, things that break, its ridiculous how it all adds up! someone really doing a business plan layout effectively should schedule for TWICE what ive listed above in order to eliminate the possibility of coming up short. but keep in mind, there is a LOT of time involoved in taking care of plants, and the market has the wage for trimmers/ tenders @ around 15-20/ hr. if you spend an average half an hour a day (not very much time at all as i often spend 1-2 hrs a day) tending your plants and anything else related to them, then over 70 days, thats another 1050 per cycle.

now were looking @ a cost (value?) of 1500-2000 per pound. ]

if anybody thinks ive missed anything or im off target let me know.

i mean, do yall think that people who run the risk of robberies and going to jail (in spite of the alleged protections the law supposedly offers)
should only be paid minimum wage for their time according to the risk involved? shoot i dont think you could get anybody to do that kind of work for less than $12 a hr. but ive just layed the whole game out in front of you (which is the truly compasssionate thing to do) so if youre STILL broke its your own fault!

average price for an 8th on

average price for an 8th on the street in LA is 45$ for chronic and 60$ for for kush. no way you'd get an 8th for 5$

Highly Inaccurate

5-10$ an 1/8 for good marijuana on the street is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Yes, dispensaries that charge 60 an 1/8 ARE operating for profit, no ifs ands or buts. HOWEVER, charging 5-10$ an 1/8 would be 40-80$ an ounce (in the EARLY 1970's we were selling ounces for around $60, and that weed was nowhere near as good as it is today). Are you implying that given the nature of inflation in this country AND the fact that growing weed is no longer a simple task if you want a quality product - that one can still afford to sell it at that cheap a price? The average growroom today is waaaaaayyyy more complicated and complex than those of yesteryear, and can cost several thousand dollars to set up properly. Then, there is the constant care and vigilance that people put in to taking care of these plants. When you add all that up with the always reoccurring high monthly energy costs AND personal risk factor (even those with the most legal of setups are still taking a federal risk) you cannot expect someone to go through all that work for 'charity' alone.


So while I agree that dispensaries are charging too much for their products, that is their fault not the growers'. They buy from local growers at around half the street value (which is again, NOT 5-10$ an eigth but 50$ here in SoCal for some fire). If they buy it at around 25$ an 1/8 and sell it for 60$, who are the real villains here? The hard working growers or the 'legal' dispensaries who do nothing but set up the shop front?

borden's picture

One of the reasons the

One of the reasons the dispensaries charge the same prices as the street market is that their product would get diverted to the street if that happened. They are trying to do medical marijuana as a legal business, and having lots of it get to the street market would undermine the legitimacy of that effort and imperil the entire thing. It's an unfortunate situation, but that's what prohibition does.

There are other reasons dispensaries charge as much as they do. One is that they are providing exceptionally high quality product, and that costs money to produce. Another related reason, at least with the good ones, is that they are spending big money on testing. They don't necessarily know when any given grower brings something in if it is pure enough and safe enough and of the right potency level. That takes expensive laboratory procedures to determine.

5-10 1/8s

Well I hate to break it to everyone but the author is not only correct their seems to be an air of entitlement to this whole medicinal concept. We just passed the law in Arizona to go in affect in 30+ days. We already have a guy wanting to put in a 10,000sq foot growing company. People it only takes 1 sq foot to grow 600grams . As for those who are not altogether intelligent or in the know I will break it down. A 1/4 ounce is 7-8 grams, an ounce is basically 28grams (weight variations in regard to baggy wait of aprox. 1 gram) and so forth and so on. I can currently get high end hydroponics for about 90 a ounce,, approximately $20 a 1/4 and damn it worked out $10 a 1/8. I hate to burst anyones bubble but I have grown up with the greatest growers from Alaska (was decriminalized in the 1980s) to Australia (not just shrimp on the barbi). I will tell you this though I will sue anyone who deviates from the "compassion" that dope peddlers used to get marijuana legal in Arizona. I am tired of pis-ing in a cup and being unable to get out of bed on $4k a month worth of premium opium. I am also tired of people using my condition and disability to make a profit or further their chances of getting high. It is a medicine for the truly sick, at least that's what everyone told the voters. Finally they have new LED lights that work a lot better than the Nickel and other lights and costs only pennies for energy, no cooling, no exhaust is needed and finally no hoods or reflectors (better light spectrum). So actually they can produce the best Kush for about 10 an ounce. If I have to pay more than 60 an ounce I will gladly bring Tort (for those who do not understand law that is a "Suit"). Oh wait, I won't have to sue because the first person to go to the Weed Store with $10 and get laughed out of the place only to have a seizure out front, I am sure when they get up out of pis- and vomit they will call the Feds (see that is what medicinal marijuana is truly for not burnt out Yuppies with a ingrown toenail). Duh! Man you people have never lived in the real world.

10 $ 1/8

store prices are same as street prices ,  ok lets see a 1/4 ounce of northern lights 1984 _ 60 dollars in so. cal , you dont know what the fuck youre talking about , loser. ahhhhhaha

biggest dime bag i ever heard of

if you dont like the price grow it yourself smartass and sell me some for 20 bucks a sack.....yea thats what i thought,  if  they want to legalize and tax somthing , common sense would tell you to start and finish with hemp. you cannot leagalize a blackmarket  herb you must decriminalize........ remember the average IQ of americans is that of a 12 year old.

nice suit

you can do the math all you want, the prices are set by what the market will bare and big corperations would never invest 10s of millions of dollars  bacause its illegal  and if it was legal they still would not because you cannot control the underground network of kids that move all weed across america. its always nice to see some guy with a college degree try to explain his delusion of marijuana as if it where a 6 pack of beer or a pack of camels.

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