Medical marijuana poses an interesting twist to patients covered by health care plans. Many insurance companies do not want to cover such costs, so it becomes an out of pocket expense. Luckily for patients, it’s not very expensive, depending on where you live, the cannabis strain, its potency and who is selling it. While prices may vary from state to state, the following estimated costs reflect averages based on available online research from sites that offer comprehensive information on medical marijuana cost.
Government vs Street Prices
Part of the reason marijuana has been legalized in several states is that it has happened at a time when many state budgets are financially upside down. So one of the strongest arguments for legalization has been that pot can be taxed to help pay down budget deficits and long term debts. While average prices for illegal weed run anywhere from $8 to $20 per gram, legal government non-organic marijuana averages around $15 per gram. Private organic cannabis is closer to $10 per gram. High-grade cannabis can run as much as $60 per gram.
Interestingly, cannabis has been legalized in Uruguay, where it sells for $1 per gram, which may lead to more competitive pricing in the United States. In Canada, the cost of growing cannabis is between 50 cents and $2 per gram, as the medical marijuana cost to patients ranges between $3 to $12 per gram.
Geography of Pot Prices
Certain states grow more pot that others, which affects supply and demand. California, for example, clearly grows much more cannabis than neighbor Nevada, partly because growing conditions are much better in the Golden State, where Humboldt and Mendocino Counties grow plenty of weed. An article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal from September 2014 warned that even though dispensaries weren’t open yet in Nevada, prices pointed upward due to the state government’s option to limit the cultivation of cannabis in the state.
It turns out that the amount of cultivation space needed to satisfy grower applicants is two to three times more than what Nevada officials had planned. Limits imposed on growing by the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health could artificially drive up prices. Much the way California casinos have demolished the Nevada casino industry, if prices get too high it could lead many patients seeking to buy cheaper pot in California. Commercial pot prices in California have been declining for years down to $2,500 per pound, according to a 2011 NPR report. This steady price drop is a result of an expansion of suppliers.
Economics of Pot Prices
Colorado is becoming one of the top research states for cannabis economics. The state raised $15.3 million from recreational pot sales in the first five months of 2014, according to Forbes. If you add in medical pot sales, the revenue was $23.6 million for the same time frame. It may just be a coincidence, but the state’s tourism industry is booming to record levels. The state has set a 15 percent excise tax plus a 10 percent sales tax on recreational pot. Colorado made recreational pot legal at the start of 2014, as recreational pot prices are $400 per ounce compared with medical pot for $200 an ounce.
It is unclear how legalization, taxation and the amount of cultivation regulated by states will affect the medical marijuana cost for patients in the future. Cheaper marijuana from Mexico seems to be a preference among the average cannabis user. Personal cultivation will also likely affect costs. A smart approach for government would be to undercut the black market and still make huge profits.