I get emails and comments on my column from people railing about the price of medical marijuana. They think it costs WAY too much to go to a collective for meds, and they plan to shun dispensaries for the same reason. The messages usually go something like this:
Get a clue, you stupid motherfucker!! You are such a dumbass! Why would anyone, even a stupid fucker who is a dumbass, drive across town to a collective to pay $60 for a bag of weed that I can get for $50 on the black market?! Your (sic) a dumbass!! I would never pay that much for pot, because YOU ARE A DUMBASS!!! LOL.
Well, I beg to differ. I am not a dumbass; neither am I a stupid motherfucker, nor, well, a DUMBASS for a second or third or fourth time. I'm actually quite smart, and there are reasons I like getting MMJ at brick-and-mortar establishments, even if I have to pay a premium for it. Safety is the main reason.
Maybe it sounds a little chickenshit, but every time I've ever bought marijuana from a pot-dealer, I arrived and left with a tiny pit of fear in my gut. I always felt like I was about to be jackbooted in the back of the neck by the SWAT team, which had surely been watching the pot-dealer's house for months and recording my telephone calls to him and writing down my license-plate number and noting the telltale bulge in my pocket as I left.
I also often had a nascent fear that The Cartel could storm the place at any moment, dragging everyone into black SUVs and driving out to Picture Rocks, where they would cut off our heads and hang us from an overpass so the other pot-smokers would get the message. I'm not sure what the message would be, but still.
Unreasonable? Maybe, but I don't feel that way when I go into an MMJ collective or club. I feel welcomed and appreciated and comfy—there is usually genuine love in the air. Every time I go to a collective, I feel like they want to help me, not snatch my $50 and get me the fuck out of their house before the next guy shows up. Yes, there is still a chance the SWAT team will crash the party, but they probably wouldn't arrest me, and they almost certainly wouldn't shoot anyone. Even if they did, it would probably be a horrible accident, and they wouldn't hang my headless corpse from an overpass.
And the prices at collectives aren't high, anyway, comparatively. It's a perception. Last year, University of Arizona doctoral candidate Monica Stephens helped map a crowd-sourced data set from PriceOfWeed.com, and guess what? She found that marijuana is actually pretty cheap here. Only a few regions showed lower prices—northern California and southern Oregon (not surprising), northwestern Ohio (a bit surprising) and the western edge of Kansas (WTF??). Compared to most of the nation, we rank pretty low. So the lack of gratitude by the bitchers and moaners disappoints me a little. C'mon, guys, please take a look around. If you had lived and bought meds virtually anywhere else, you would know that the prices we pay are low, even at collectives.
In the end, the market drives prices, and we're drifting in an emerging market. Once dispensaries open, they will have a key role in setting costs throughout the community. I was in Denver last summer, where I saw dozens and dozens of dispensaries clamoring for patients. They were offering prices I could scarcely believe—Kush variants for as low as $25 per eighth-ounce. So I would urge all dispensary operators to give a guy a break with your prices. Let competition drive prices down, if for no other reason that it might keep the bitchers and moaners out of my inbox.