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January 25th, 2012 JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG | News Stories
 

Budget Bud

Why Oregon has America’s cheapest weed.

weed-cheap_3812IMAGE: carolynann.net
     
Tags: marijuana
In Oregon, we have high precipitation, high unemployment and very high standards for coffee. But the cost of getting high? That’s low.

The price of marijuana is lower in Oregon than in any other state, according to the website PriceOfWeed.com: “High quality” weed here costs, on average, $250.12 an ounce (or roughly $31 for an eighth of an ounce), compared with $270.17 in Washington, $298.72 in California and $323.06 in Idaho. 

PriceOfWeed, which was featured in Wired last year, bases its statistics on data crowd-sourced from consumers—people who buy marijuana tell the site how much they paid. 

How accurate is such a method? Well, University of Oregon economist Tim Duy says using “just this kind of survey data” is one way economists determine the price of a good in an underground market like marijuana’s. 

The cops think Portland’s weed is pricier than the website’s figure. Sgt. Peter Simpson, a Portland Police Bureau spokesman, says the bureau’s investigations peg the market value of an ounce at $300 to $400.

But one dealer says Portland marijuana is actually cheaper than PriceOfWeed’s number. Eric (not his real name), a 24-year-old who has sold marijuana in Portland for about six years, says $250 is an accurate ounce price—for chumps. 

“If you’re in the know, you’ll be expecting really dank herb for around $220, if not lower,” he says.

Eric says PriceOfWeed got one thing right: Marijuana is “definitely” cheaper in Oregon than in other states. Some take advantage of this interstate differential by buying weed here and shipping it across state lines to sell at a profit. 

“I do know a lot of people who ship herb, usually making around $1,000 a pound,” Eric says. “There’s a risk, but...of hundreds of packages I’ve seen shipped out, three have ever been stopped or gotten lost.”

Why the “invisible hand” has held down Oregon’s marijuana prices isn’t clear. 

“I doubt in Oregon we suffer from weak demand,” UO’s Duy says. “I would guess a supply-side issue is at play. If the level of enforcement in Oregon is relatively lower, so too would be the prices.” Lax policing of marijuana makes it cheaper to produce and increases the number of producers, he explains.

Eric concurs. “It mostly has to do with a rise in supply versus the rather steady demand over the past five years,” he says. “There has been a huge influx of growers...moving to Oregon.”

Eric says prices have actually been falling. Good weed cost upward of $300 an ounce when he began dealing here six years ago, but “in the last year of selling…I never sold an ounce for more than $220,” he says. “You’ll just get laughed at.”


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