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What’s legal weed gonna cost in Illinois? A lot Both taxes and an expected supply shortage could result in pricy recreational pot products when the drug is fully legalized in Illinois at the start of next year.

Chicago Sun Times

Wednesday, June 12, 2019  |  Article  |  Tom Schuba

Recreational Marijuana

Sales of recreational marijuana are expected to kick off at the start of the year across Illinois. AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

The price of a legal high is likely gonna cost you.


Both taxes and an expected supply shortage could result in pricy recreational pot products when the drug is fully legalized in Illinois at the start of next year.


According to Budzu, a crowdsourcing site that tracks the price of marijuana, a gram of pot currently costs between $15 and $20 at medical dispensaries in Chicago. One gram can typically be used to roll up to three joints.


An eighth of an ounce, or 3.5 grams, currently runs medical patients about $37.50, Budzu says. However, Dan Linn, executive director of the Illinois chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the price can be as high as $60 at some Illinois clinics.


Linn, who also serves as the general manager of two Maribis dispensaries in Chicago and Springfield, said an eighth of recreational pot could end up costing more than that, noting that the inflated price points will likely be more than what illegal bud dealers charge.


“Consumers who already have access will probably decide to continue to purchase it illegally above that $60 amount,” Linn told the Sun-Times. “But I think the tourists and out of staters will purchase it, as well as people who are just happy to be able to legally purchase cannabis for the first time in their life in Illinois.”


Those medical prices could eventually be close to what people pay for legal weed. Bethany Gomez — managing director of the Loop-based Brightfield Group, which researches the cannabis and CBD industry — said the markets for medical and recreational pot often “don’t look that different” and they can sometimes coalesce.


That’s already happened in Washington, which was found to have the cheapest weed in a recent study of four states that have legalized the drug for adult use.


No more nickel-and-diming

In 2012, when Washington became the first of 10 states to legalize recreational pot, it cost as much as $30 a gram, according to the study published in March by the cannabis data firm Headset.


Now, the state’s unified pot market is “home of the lowest prices in legal cannabis,” with pot products including flower, vapor pens, concentrates, pre-rolled joints, edibles, beverages, capsules, tinctures and topicals generally averaging lower prices than the same products in three other states, the report states.


The study found that Colorado had the cheapest grams of cannabis flower, at $4.60, while Washingtonians could purchase the same amount for just 30 cents more. In the states that have more recently legalized recreational pot, California and Nevada, grams of pot cost $11.60 and $13.70, respectively.


Prices for vapor pens with THC ranged from $36 in Washington to $96 in Nevada.


“Competition plays a major part, both within the legal cannabis industry, and from the black market. So does regulation,” says the study. “ ... Prices are very locally specific.”


 Gomez said the national prohibition on pot is to blame for the divergent price points across states.


“You can only use what is cultivated within the state, so there is certainly higher pricing when there’s a supply shortage,” she said. “As capacity ramps up, if theres an oversupply, then there’s a depression in pricing.”


When that happened last year in Oregon, some dispensaries sitting on a glut of weed began selling grams for as low as $4.


Depleted stash?


A February study commissioned by lawmakers and conducted by the Colorado consulting firm Freedman & Koski warned that Illinois’ 20 licensed cultivations centers couldn’t meet the state’s demand for recreational pot, which could reach up to 550,000 pounds a year. The expected shortage will likely help drive prices up.


Despite the state’s plans to eventually issue more licenses, both Linn and Gomez said a supply shortage is all but inevitable when sales kick off on Jan. 1.


“It happens in every single state. When the markets first come online, there’s a severe supply shortage,” said Gomez.


Some dispensaries like Maribis may be forced to cap the amount of recreational pot patrons can buy during a single visit, Linn said. The dispensaries will be required to keep a stockpile of medical marijuana for patients, though.