My morning began as it often does, checking Twitter to see if we’re still operating in a pseudo-civilization or if we’ve finally gone full Mad Max out there, when I happened upon this missive from my pal, Tom Angell:
It’s a Reddit called “Weedstocks,” and it is for those wishing to discuss the topic of investment in the cannabis industry. It perfectly encapsulates the evil that lies beneath the illegal and the legal marijuana industry: greed.
I’ve always been a marijuana consumer. As I joined the marijuana law reform movement in the mid-2000s, I encountered a reverence for the marijuana grower that I had never personally felt.
Oh, the heroic grower, who risks life, liberty, and property to overgrow the government! Kudos to these altruistic souls toiling the earth and disobeying the unjust law of prohibition! Without them, the movement to free the plant and liberate its people would be dashed!
Balderdash. As there is no capital without labor, there are no growers without tokers.
If it were ever about some misty-eyed fight for justice and the environment, motherfuckers would’ve planted it everywhere (a la Dana Larsen and a few other “Johnny Appleweed” types) and let weed take its natural course.
Nah, man, it’s always been a business. One in which the producers have encouraged an artificial scarcity to maintain exorbitant prices that deliver huge profits.
Under prohibition, that artificial scarcity is primarily a function of the prohibition. You make something illegal, you make it something you have to hide, and that makes it more expensive.
But it doesn’t make it $300 per ounce expensive.
I’ve interviewed scores of marijuana growers who worked in the illegal market. I’ve gotten varying reports of the actual cost of growing under prohibition, from lows of $12.50 per ounce to highs of $50.00 per ounce. That’s including a reasonable salary for the grower.
There’s some point at which a markup goes from being reasonable to being price gouging. I’m not sure where that should be, but I think charging $300 for an ounce that cost $12.50 to create is probably on the price gouging side of that analysis.
That artificial scarcity is exacerbated by keeping consumers ignorant of competition. There’s no handy guide of dealers and menus from which the consumer may choose the best deals. Certainly the dealers aren’t going to give the consumers another dealer’s number.
Maybe these points can be forgiven. Prohibition isn’t the grower’s fault, and in that market, you can’t advertise and you must charge far more to account for the risk of getting a few felony charges.
Well, okay, fine. But growers can’t have it both ways. If price gouging results in great compensation for the risk of getting caught, then growers don’t get some special moral consideration as noble freedom fighters.
Besides, not all growers get caught, and seven out of eight arrests for marijuana are consumers, not growers and sellers, a rate that is twice as bad for marijuana consumers as it is for consumers of other drugs, where one in four arrests are producers and sellers.
But even if we forgive the prohibition aspects of the illegal grower’s operations, when it comes time to legalize marijuana, we cannot forgive those growers who oppose it to maintain their own profits.
So maybe I’m not as taken aback by the legal marijuana industry playing these same kinds of games to maintain artificial scarcity and higher prices for greater profits. I used to pay $300 an ounce for illegal weed; now I pay between $80 and $200 an ounce for legal weed. Prices are lower and I’m free from the fear of an arrest.
Still, these legal weed bros suffer the same inducement of greed to frustrate the full legalization of marijuana, in which cannabis and hemp would be as available, accessible, cheap, and an ingredient in as many products as corn in America.