Is the Black Market Getting Cheaper?

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Everywhere you look, weed is getting cheaper.

Whether a result of legalization or simply a quirk of supply and demand, the price of marijuana is going down in many places. There are obvious signs of this on the legal market. But it’s happening with illegal pot, too.

Marijuana CashThe price of an ounce, once well over $300 in most of the country, is rapidly dropping in many areas. In places such as Colorado and Washington State, an ounce typically sells for less than $250, with prices hovering around $200 in many communities.

Illegal weed is cheaper, too

The black market is substantially more expensive, but anecdotal evidence suggests costs are breaking for the better there, too. Dealers are lowering once-drastic prices on small amounts of grass, prices that could occasionally top $70 for an eighth of an ounce.

In Minnesota, for example, a zip that once regularly pulled in $340 can now be found for less than $275. An eighth that once sold for $60 now goes for $45 or $50. Evidence elsewhere is scarce, but all indications suggest the same trend is unfolding throughout the American black market.

High supply drives down prices

There are a couple of obvious reasons for the decline. For one, legalization has made marijuana more abundant than it was. Some of that weed is inevitably funneled into the black market, meaning the illicit marijuana supply has increased. Increased supply drives down prices, since users have an easier time finding the drug.

At the same time, more entrepreneurs have entered the market. Even as Colorado and fellow Western states legalized the recreational use of cannabis, other locales have decriminalized the drug. With law enforcement now largely ignoring weed in those places, the opportunities for low-level dealers have exploded.

Take another example from Minnesota. The state removed criminal penalties for the possession of pot in the 1990s. In recent years, law enforcement has paid little attention to cannabis, leading to a robust marketplace for the drug.

Today’s buyers have more abundant options

Smoking Marijuana JointWhere once a prospective customer had to use personal contacts to find marijuana, now it’s widely available on Craigslist. And even there, where over-pricing con artists flourish, prices are on the decline.

There are few if any empirical measures of the cost of marijuana on the black market. PriceOfWeed.com tracks price information supplied by customers around the world. But the data that feeds the site is scarce and heavily influenced by outlier prices. When an ounce sells for $400 in a state where it usually sells for $300, the average reported price will jump substantially.

That makes it hard to gauge the real cost of pot anywhere outside the legal market. But a drop in those costs was almost inevitable.

Prices have declined significantly in places where marijuana is legal for recreational use. In Colorado, for example, reported prices have plummeted from more than $300 to less than $250. In some places, a zip sells for little more than $200.

If the trend is moving to the black market, stoners have a bright future ahead. That’s especially true for medical cannabis patients, who currently have no choice but to pay high prices.

Equally important, it means legalization works. The only way to effectively defeat the black market is to undercut it with legal pot, and the rapid price drops suggest that’s exactly what’s happening.

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