For hundreds of millions of Americans, marijuana is readily available if they want it — legally or otherwise. While only three states have fully legal recreational markets in operation, two dozen others have functioning medical marijuana laws and coinciding markets, with varying levels of access, quality, and affordability.
As for the rest of the country, the black market is still where you need to go, which is in violation of both state and federal law.
But for those who are afforded the legal privilege of buying and using marijuana safely and legally, you now have the opportunity to be more selective than ever before. There are dozens and dozens of strains, varying levels of quality, and of course, huge disparities in price. Naturally, this has led to choice, high-quality, brand-name cannabis being sold to those willing to pay for it, and low-quality stuff for those wanting to pay bottom dollar. Effectively, the market is working its magic, and all things considered, it’s a very good thing.
As with any market or commodity, consumers are looking to get the most for their money, which means they want good pot, and they want it cheap. So we reach the inevitable question: Where is the cheapest bud in America?
According to Dan Nelson of marijuana price-comparison website Wikileaf, your best bet is to head west, and stick to medical dispensaries. “It’s all about location, and where you are, and depends on what tax structure is set up,” Nelson told The Cheat Sheet.
Taxation is really what has been driving the price up in many areas, and has been a big hindrance on the market’s ability to grow. For example, Nelson says that if you were shopping at a legal recreational marijuana store in a city like Seattle, you could end up paying as much as $20 per gram for medium-quality bud. But at a medical dispensary, which is shielded from most taxation, that same gram could cost under $10.
Washington has been reworking its tax laws in relation to marijuana, however, so things are in a bit of flux. The same goes for Washington’s medical marijuana dispensaries, which are being folded into the legal markets.
So, you’re best bet for cheap weed? Medical marijuana dispensaries.
As far as what cities you’re going to want to head to, the Mile High City and the Emerald City both live up to their names in supplying what is likely the country’s most inexpensive marijuana. “You’re going to find the cheaper deals in Denver, Seattle, and Portland,” Nelson says.
As of right now, Oregon is probably the place to go. The market is wide open, and there are no taxes being levied until the beginning of 2016.
And he appears to be right. By using pricing tools like Nelson’s own Wikileaf — which effectively acts as a Priceline-like platform — and another, Priceofweed.com, all three of those cities appear to have a hearty supply of inexpensive bud. Grams at medical marijuana dispensaries can range from up to $30 for extremely high-quality cannabis, all the way down to $8, or even $6 per gram in some cases.
Buying in bulk gets you a discount as well. One more thing to note: Colorado residents are legally allowed to grow their own plants, so minus the up-front growing expenses, cannabis enthusiasts in Colorado could essentially get their pot for free.
On the flip side of the coin, bargain seekers should probably avoid the three big California seaside cities of San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Nelson says that these cities are where you’re bound to find the country’s most expensive marijuana, even from medical dispensaries. This is because California sits at the crossroads of an influx of illegal imports from Mexico, more imports making their way down from British Columbia in Canada, and also houses quite a bit of domestic production. A lot of that comes straight from northern California’s famed “Emerald Triangle.”
As for the rest of the country, prices tend to increase the further east you go. Though many states do have medical marijuana markets, a lack of space for production in many areas and strict laws tend to dissuade many would-be producers from getting into the game, stunting supply. Also, imports from heavy production areas, like western Canada and California, are very far away, and it can be quite risky to transport product all the way across the country in violation of federal law.
The black market is a whole different story, and there really isn’t much reliable data to give us a clear picture. Therefore, we’re relegated to pricing data from the small legal market, and the numerous medical markets around the country.
To sum it up, thrifty weed fans, head out west to get the most bud for your buck.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger