Although the black market still operates like a real market with supply, demand and equilibrium, there are certain benefits of buying something in a legal market.
When black market prices range anywhere from $15 to $30 for a gram, it's usually based on the cost to transport marijuana and quality. In the medical marijuana industry, prices will tend to zero in around a set price as quality and availability become more standardized.
However, as with any fresh industry, some aspects get a little sticky. Quality is one of those aspects in the marijuana industry.
The quality of food and drugs is typically regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, but since marijuana isn't federally recognized, there is no such regulation for medical marijuana.
Luckily, there have yet to be reports of any strains causing widespread sickness, but that doesn't mean medical marijuana dispensaries aren't looking out for the quality of their product. That's where testing facilities come in.
Marijuana testing facilities are yet another branch of the industry that ensure its success. Like grow operations and medical marijuana doctors, testing facilities are one of the pieces of the puzzle that contribute to a healthy industry and healthy patients.
These testing facilities measure the amount of THC and CBD in various strains of medical marijuana, as well as testing for contamination of mold or pesticides.
Since Oregon legalized marijuana, testing has been law. In March, the Capital Press reported that the Oregon Liquor Control Commission issued its first recall after a strain was revealed to have traces of pesticide above the legal limit.
The problem was caught by one of the state-licensed testing facilities, but the issue arose from a late notification after the product had been shipped.
Ironically, the biggest story surrounding marijuana that doesn't meet industry standards comes from the federal government itself.
Sue Sisley, a Phoenix scientist studying the effects of marijuana in treating PSTD in war veterans, recently railed against the federal government for providing substandard marijuana. After having the marijuana independently tests, she found it to have levels of THC below industry standards and contain mold.
As Sisley leads the way in getting marijuana descheduled under the FDA, her study requires marijuana with levels of THC similar to that a patient would be prescribed and (obviously) mold-free.
No such testing law exists in Arizona, which means dispensaries are free to sell marijuana at any levels of THC they claim. However, that doesn't seem to be an issue because most dispensaries care about the quality of cannabis they sell to their customers and have it tested for THC levels.
According to the Phoenix New Times, though, most dispensaries testing for contamination is uncommon.
That doesn't mean dispensaries are trying to sell you moldy marijuana. With the amount of product a single dispensary pulls in, they can afford to be picky, and that means making sure they sell the best bud. It's still a market after all.
But if you're concerned, ask your dispensary who tests their marijuana the next time you pick up. They'll likely have a good answer.