Notes on the Value of Cannabis: Five Years In

So folks we’re rounding out five years since we voted to legalize cannabis in Washington and finally we’re beginning to get a real strong sense for where the industry and market are going.  Interestingly enough, the whole dynamic can be distilled to its essence by explaining the easy economics behind the $5 single gram price spread.  It’s mainly just one input that’s different – human energy.


At this point large corporate cooperatives have formed in the state producing the cannabis equivalent of industrial agriculture.  Some of these grow primarily outdoor crops in vast stretches of open land in Eastern and Southern Washington while others grow in large-scale warehouse factory indoor operations.  More often than not the plants will have applied to them some form of pesticide or fungicide, are often fed concentrated synthetic nutrients rather than those rooted in living soils, have their flowers trimmed by lifeless machines, and are frequently denied the care and attention required by a quality curing process.  These highly artificial forms of production are the source of the approximately $8 grams currently on the market and this form of cannabis is what will be available all over gas stations and grocery stores within a couple decades as soon as Big Tobacco or Big Pharma can legally buyout these types of industrial agriculture outfits.


Priced $3 to $5 per gram above that, family-sized businesses have the ability to create and nurture artisanal-batch grow operations and serve customers with hands-down the best cannabis on the market.  Think of the difference between the two as vegetables grown in the garden compared to those found at franchise restaurants.  Typically these companies have close connections to their communities and are owned by their operators – much like your small-town brewery or distillery.  Their harvests are distinct and distinguished, prioritizing love and devotion to the craft over margin.  Most have localized market presences while the best have established a regional reach through strategic partnerships with retail access points who share their values and principles.  These are also the folks whose businesses per capita employ the most people in the most neighborhoods around the state.


Given the current state of cannabis law and legislation, and the predictable regulatory capture currently occurring through lobbying efforts of the largest corporate entities, it’s imperative the cannabis customer and consumer stay informed and educated on what’s happening to their favorite hobby or preferred therapeautic treatment.  As the market continues to evolve and transform, particularly with the eventual introduction of social use establishments, the cannabis products and culture available for consumption in the future depends entirely on the products and culture cannabis enthusiasts choose to support today.