The Price of Legal and Medical Marijuana Makes the Black Market Stronger

Dank Depot (CC BY 2.0)

Dank Depot (CC BY 2.0)

I live in Maine and I smoke weed. Though, I don’t smoke as much as I used to. I’ve gone from someone who was stoned all day to someone who partakes on occasion. Still, even now that I have mellowed, I want easy access to marijuana, and where I live I have always had that. I don’t think I have ever had to go without. If I don’t know where to find it, one of my friends does.

In 2009 Maine became the 5th state to provide for dispensaries of medical grade marijuana for persons with debilitating and chronic medical conditions. I am sure I could get medical marijuana. I have been diagnosed with anxiety disorder, and a card isn’t hard to get. There are all sorts of friendly doctors around that will write a scrip. The people I know who have tried to get it, from some of the boozebags I know to my lawyer, have all been successful. The easiest way to get it here, and most other states, is to just go the “severe and chronic pain” route.

But, really, why bother? I can get weed that is just as good from one of my dealers, and it is a lot cheaper. While one would expect legal marijuana to destroy the black market, or at least cripple it, around here at least, all it has done is make it stronger.

Weed at the local dispensary goes for 50 bucks an 8th, and it gets taxed. That doesn’t go down the more you buy of course, an ounce is 400 dollars before you get hit with the tax.

I am sure the first time you go in it must seem kind of fun. “Wow here I am buying legal weed, look at how things have changed!” Then after that you never go back. The guy around the corner sells the same shit, it isn’t criminal, and he even smokes you up before you leave.

Maine has always been a liberal state when it comes to criminalizing marijuana. When I was younger you had to have over an ounce and a quarter for it to be criminal. In 2009, the Maine Legislature passed a measure that expanded the state’s decades-old law by making possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana a civil penalty, punishable by only a civil fine.

That is a lot of weed for a person to be allowed to possess. I have been busted twice over the years with possession. I had to pay a civil fine each time. The last time I got busted was about five years ago. I got kind of stressed out about it while it was happening. I was driving a car that wasn’t registered to me, I had just smoked some weed, and the car reeked of marijuana. The cop sensed my stress, and while writing me a ticket, smiled and told me not to let it ruin my day.

So that is kind of the scene around here. It isn’t a big deal to have weed, it isn’t a big deal to get high.  Even the two times I have been busted were all times when the cop basically had no choice but to write me a ticket.

Priceofweed.com, which is a website that crowdsources how much weed costs throughout the world says that high quality weed around where I live in Maine costs around 312 dollars on average for an ounce. At the dispensary it is going to be the same quality weed, and they are going to tax it, so you are going to pay an extra hundred bucks just for the privilege of buying your weed while a cute chick smiles at you from behind the register, instead of interrupting some dude for a bag in his living room while he plays World of Warcraft.

The black-market prices are definitely lower than dispensary prices. Which is kind of confusing. I mean isn’t the reason that marijuana is so expensive is because it is illegal? Because the guy dealing it to you is taking a chance? That growing it could land you in prison? Isn’t that one of the reasons that it was made legal in the first place? To stamp out, or at least hurt, the black market? It is a plant, right? It grows out of the ground. Why would it cost $400 an ounce unless it was illegal?

It isn’t just like this in my home state. In Washington for example, legal weed has been going for as much as much as a stunning 20 bucks a gram, while price of weed.com says it will cost you around 233 an ounce for high quality weed on the street. This is legal weed mind you, not medical, but it is the same principle. “Yay weed is legal, now I can pay twice as much for it.” Capitalism ruins everything, even criminal activity.

So why go to the dispensary or the legal weed shop? Just because you don’t know where else to go? If you really want weed, dealers are not hard to find.

Over the years I have had a shitload of dealers. Some have irritated the Hell out of me, others have become friends. There have been all different types. There are the guys that want you gone right away, and get pissed if you bring someone to their place that they don’t know. There are the guys that won’t let you leave and want you to hang out for a bit so their neighbors don’t get suspicious.

The best ones are the guys that are straight up business. I went to this guy for years, he lived in the projects. He was like 70 and in a wheelchair. He was always hanging out in his living room and pretty much always playing Wii with a bunch of his buddies. In and out, no conversation, just business.

If you hang out at the same bar all the time, and you tip decent and don’t act like a dick, sooner or later you start getting free drinks. It is the same thing with most dealers. If you aren’t a pain in the ass, and you show up regularly things usually go your way.

While priceofweed.com places the cost at around 312 an ounce in Maine, I can get high quality strains like Blueberry and Pineapple Express for 240 dollars an ounce. The same weed sells at the dispensary for 400. 160 dollars less an ounce, before tax.

Of course there are issues. The guys that sells it is always hammered and I usually have to stay for a bit, sometimes for as long as half an hour. He talks a lot and sometimes after I get a little stoned I start to freak out a bit. He used to have an employee that would deliver but that ended a while ago. Nothing is for free, not really.

The last time I was there I saw this other guy I know who has a dispensary card. He said he went to the dispensary a couple of times but he didn’t want to pay the price. The dealer lives right around the corner from the dispensary, and again, it is way cheaper. He grows it in his basement, he has almost no overhead whatsoever.

So around here nothing has changed really. Some people can get their medical marijuana at a dispensary, and that’s cool, it makes my small, seacoast city in Maine seem all the cooler. But why bother? The blackmarket is still where its at.