November 6, 2010

Are Marijuana Dispensaries Overcharging Patients

November 6, 2010
marijuana industry profit potential growing

As the Measure 74 campaign here in Oregon was going on (dispensary initiative), I began to notice an alarming trend. Marijuana dispensaries, in my opinion, exist for patients to have better access to medicine. However, the trend that I have noticed is that dispensaries are charging A LOT of money for medical marijuana, way more than I have ever heard anyone charging on the black market.

In a story that I posted earlier in the year, a dispensary owner posted a comment defending his high prices. He said, “we have meds from 20 an eighth to 60 an eighth…” In another story that I wrote, Johnny1 was lamenting the 75 dollar an eighth price that he sees in Southern California. The standard on the West Coast streets is 40 bucks an eighth (even for the supers), and considering that dispensaries are supposed to make it EASIER for the patient, I would expect their prices to be BETTER than the street. However, due to greed or some other crazy logic, it sounds like patients that are unable to grow their own medicine are being taken advantage of by some dispensary owners.

Even in my home state of Oregon, where we denied a recent dispensary measure, not only are there dispensaries (not a problem to me), but they are already in the business of price gouging (a very disturbing problem to me). The Human Collective opened earlier this year in Tigard, Oregon. I’d imagine that the owners were anticipating the passing of Measure 74, and jumped the gun on opening a dispensary, even though they refer to it as a ‘collective.’ Call it what you want; when you trade money for cannabis under the umbrella of medical marijuana legislation, then you are a dispensary in my opinion. To be a true collective, you would be truly non-profit, which the Human Collective claims to do, but doesn’t really.

To quote the founder, “Marijuana prices vary widely, Bennett said, falling anywhere between $1 to $15 per gram, depending on the strain or type.” 15 per gram! That is outrageous! Especially considering that the founder also charges a membership fee of 350 a year in addition to the high prices for medicine. Oregon law forbids exchanging marijuana for consideration in anyway. The Human Collective tries to dance around this by claiming that it “reimburses its growers for the exact amount it cost to produce their product,” which is perfectly legal. But 15 bucks per gram…that’s impossible to justify. That is more than what the marijuana costs on the street, and the incentive that brings it to the street is the enormous profit margin. Considering that the profit margin is higher at this ‘dispensary’ than it is on the black market clearly shows that the patients that frequent these establishments are getting the shaft.

I have yet to hear of a solid explanation for the price gouging that is occurring across the Western part of the United States. Some will say that the price has to stay artificially high in order to fend off abuse. If marijuana was cheaper at a dispensary than compared to the black market, then people would purchase at a dispensary, sell to the black market, and that would be horrible. Or some will say that they are a ‘non-profit’ and that they only have the patient’s welfare in mind, and as a result of so much research and quality testing, they have adjusted prices accordingly.

Such arguments do not resonate with me. Medical marijuana policies were created to help ailing patients, not make people rich. I understand people should be compensated for their efforts, but when they are getting rich while patients are being price gouged, how does that make the medical marijuana industry any better than the big pharm industry?? It is up to everyone in the medical industry to do this right, and TRULY keep the patient’s welfare at the top of the priority list.


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