This is a question that most cannabis users will have asked themselves at some point here in the UK. Over the past 3-5 years cannabis has shot up in price from £15 eighths to a whopping £25 for eighths that have more than halved in average weight (from 3.5 grams to 2.0 grams) in parts of the UK today. From personal experience I have even paid up to £25 for an ‘Eighth’ that in fact weighed 1.4 grams, and from speaking to other cannabis users all across the UK I have concluded that deals like this seem to be happening quite a bit.
So why is this happening? What is making dealers squeeze even more money from our pockets for the most readily available illegal drug in the UK? The first and obvious factor is inflation. The cost of living is going up, and of course the knock-on effect means that the price of our cannabis is going up as well. Most things now cost more money, and the VAT increase from 17.5% to 20% has driven prices up even further. With increased living costs for people involved in cannabis supply, it would only be natural to raise cannabis prices to maintain profits.
It should also be noted that the price of cannabis is going up as the weights are going down, effectively making it many times more expensive than it once was at a time when Britain is in danger of another recession. Would it not be logical for the Government to use a new cannabis industry to ensure more economic stability for the UK?
The supply and demand factor is a massive part of this issue. Pre-2006, lots of industrial cannabis factories were springing up as the dangers were not as great because there was not a police focus on cannabis crackdowns. But after an increased police awareness and subsequently busts, the supply has gone down while the demand has remained stable/grown. Therefore the price of cannabis would go up as a result of this. If the amount of cannabis grown/imported overtook the demand, cannabis prices could drop, but this would not happen with a growing number of police raids in the UK. The Government are fully aware of this, and it is playing into their hands – they want cannabis to be a rip off in the hope that people will not consume as much as it. According to the government viewpoint, if the price goes up and quality goes down then people will use cannabis less. But in reality the number of cannabis users in the UK is not in decline.
I had some help from Derek Williams for the following point – Derek went into detail about the cost of production, and how it now is in the favour of organised criminals.
“What you don’t talk about of course is the cost of production, which other than the risk of getting busted hasn’t gone up – indeed with new technology like LED lighting is due to drop greatly. So the other half of this is those people who do carry on growing are getting very rich. This means that criminal grow ops are maybe smaller, but much better protected. The gangs can afford to defend themselves – guns etc.
The high prices also attract a new form of grower, the small scale “contract” grower. Instead of big warehouse grows, criminals are now sub-contracting smaller scale grows to people, which when the police raid look like hobby growers. But of course these are not enthusiast grows, so no quality considerations, overuse of chemicals like OP pesticides etc. It also increases crime – shown in Liverpool now when the city’s gangs are stealing near ready grows and gun crime has increased greatly. http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2011/07/21/liverpool-drug-gangs-move-in-on-cannabis-trade-special-echo-report-100252-29092230/
Tokers might be put off by the high prices – indeed it’s interesting to note the high prices haven’t caused a crime wave amongst users as a high price for heroin would do – but as soon as a supply becomes available again the users will return. So the police effort has to be ongoing, it can never be scaled back. But as the grow trade fragments, so it takes more and more police resources to bust smaller and smaller grows, so the commitment is not only open ended but also forever increasing. Add to that the fact that the police effort has the effect of increasing violent crime, gang wars etc, the cost of enforcement ramps up even more and we all suffer as a result – both cannabis users and non-users.
In the middle of all this are the hobby growers. People who grow cannabis for their own use, or maybe to share with some friends. These are people who take a pride in their product, have no connection with criminal gangs and are not in it for the money. These people are targeted in the same way as the criminals and indeed are a much softer target as they take no precautions in terms of defending their grow-ops. Of course, knocking out these easy to get hobby growers only pushed the trade even further toward the criminals.
Prohibitionists are increasingly making the point that if there was no demand, there would be no supply and this crime wave wouldn’t be happening. In a twisted sort of way they are, of course, right, but there is a demand and cannabis remains a substance which millions of people enjoy using. It is the attempt to prevent the laws of supply and demand working as they should which is causing this problem. The cannabis trade, if it were allowed to function as it should be able to, is not a problem for society, It only becomes a problem when the government and police drive a massively profitable trade into the arms of organised crime.”
There is also the greed factor. Dealers have clocked on to the fact that due to poor education on cannabis, many people do not know good quality or a good deal when they buy a bag of weed. They have hiked prices up over the past few years creating a domino effect that has caused the standard deal to drop from 3.5 gram eighths to 3.0 grams, then to 2.8, then 2.6 etc all the way down to 2.0 gram eighths for £20 – or sometimes £25 – throughout most of the UK.
Even moderate stoners will appreciate how little cannabis this is for what we are paying. Gone are the days when a tiny green sprinkle was all that was needed to get sky high. It is worth noting that the amount people smoke varies greatly, but a lot of people I know will smoke a gram in 4 or 5 spliffs, and the cost of this is enough to hurt the average bank balance.
Perhaps the most expensive cannabis I have bought cost me £25 for 1.4 grams of ‘high grade’ – I suffered this cost because of my love for cannabis, and it was nice to some smoke sativa strains for a change while I had this supply.
Of course I am speaking from a consumer’s perspective – as I am not a dealer I cannot rely on honesty when I ask dealers how much they get their weed for, as I am seen as a client and they would not want to damage business. I have been told £260 for an ounce before which works out at £10 a gram before profit – hard to believe. The standard I am hearing is £180 – £200 per ounce of standard weed, which could be wet or sprayed or both, depending on the batch. Unfortunately I do not know any local growers who I could buy directly from to ensure good quality and value.
Another factor contributing to the increase in cost of cannabis over the past few years is Gordon Brown’s decision to reclassify cannabis Class B effective from the start of 2009 (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_classification_in_the_United_Kingdom). When it had been downgraded in 2004 to a Class C drug penalties were reduced, and therefore cost decreased. People also began growing their own cannabis rather than importing it from abroad, which further lowered costs (and cut off international organised criminals from some of the UK supply chain). When cannabis was reclassified after pressure on Gordon Brown from campaigns by our nation’s tabloids the fear of increased penalties resulted in – you’ve guessed it – an increase in cannabis prices.
It is also worth noting that the campaigns by tabloids were based on false information (e.g. skunk being linked to mental health problems), creating confusion amongst the Great British Public – suddenly cannabis carried harsher sentences again, therefore the price went up and the tabloids won the battle to stop sensible drugs policy in its footsteps and send it back to fight another day.
The problem of contaminated cannabis is another factor, because the thought-process behind ‘spraying’ cannabis is to vastly increase its weight without regard for potential health risks for consumers. This is a major problem caused by cannabis prohibition that I cover in my article Meet The Sprayer. How it fits into this argument is that £10 for a gram of cannabis that has had its weight more than doubled with contaminants means that the consumer is actually getting a lot less than 1 gram of cannabis, the rest of the weight being made up by nasty contaminants, which carry serious health risks to cannabis smokers. When you do the maths, you can see the vast additional profits generated by the organised criminals along the contaminated cannabis supply resulting from spraying cannabis.
Because of prohibition, the price of cannabis is set by dealers in the UK who are out to line their own pockets, on most part with no regard for the cannabis consumers. Because cannabis must be bought via illegal means there is no regulation, no tax, no trading standards – the dealers can charge what they want, confident that they will keep their customers because they have a commodity. The same can be seen with alcohol prohibition in America last century – alcohol prices went through the roof, and America was flooded with contaminated alcohol which led to many health problems.
When I asked the cannabis community how much cannabis costs in their area, the general consensus was that people thought that prices were a rip off. I have posted some of the comments below.
“At the moment I am paying £10 a gram for my cannabis – how much does it cost in your area and do you think you are getting a good deal?”
“Around the same in Brum for the high grade, yet less than 4 years ago it was double that. Blatant price fixing by the higher powers! Best way forward is G.I.Y!” – Shaun
“£10 for .8 of a gram “ – Graham
“if its Chinese 20 a half Q apart from that it’s 10 a g for both home-grown and import. if it’s dry here and i need to travel the couple of miles to Edinburgh most peeps are getting raped for 20 bags that weigh 1.3 if your lucky :p” – Alistair
“Pound a point. Same as gold, unfortunately.” -Jay
“1.3 p/£10, 2.5+ p/£20. You can get a proper henry for £25 as well” – Jack
“?.8 of a gram £10 damp (bad),£140 oz dry (very good)” – Rhys
“I get .9 for a £10 and 1.5 for £20 I reckon it should go back to how it used to be £140 an oz” – Wayne
“1.6′s if im lucky and even then theres a 25% chance its sprayed” – Connor
“where i am its £20 per every 1.5g. Probably the worst prices in the country.” – Nusty
“€300/ounce €50/eighth (3.5g) doesn’t really vary much around here, occasionally some good stuff is available usually around €50 for 2g.” – Sandra
“We get between 190 and 230 here depending on the bud. Personally I’d never buy for more than 220. Doesn’t become worth it” – Timothy
“£10 a gram of green, £8 a gram of pollen here” – Kayla
“I get bags (dont call them 8ths) of green for 3 gs to 3.2 for £25” – Grant
“£20 for anything from 1.0 grams to 1.8, usually wet un-cured and full of tree trunks to knock me even more” – Padd
“At the moment its 1.8 for £20 . Ounces cost 200-240 ( haze 240) . Prices are crazy and its got to change” – Joseph
“I pay £75-£90 on the half of regs, it’s usually damp and I’ll lose about 1.5g drying it out. Anything from moderately stinky to high grade stinky is 10s on the g” – Joe
“It varies on dealer around here, my neighbour does 1.4/1.5 for £20 (£15 neighbours rate to me, lol) otherwise I can get 2.4 for £20 if I’m willing to walk 3 – 4 miles up the other side of the valley. Case of quantity or convenience, but most deals round here are a bit crap these days.” – Ainsley
So, the future – does it look bleak for cannabis? Will we end up in a country where cannabis prices become so great that a gram could cost the same as a gram of something harder? What problems would this cause? Worryingly, it is possible that more people could be tempted into using harder drugs if they get them from the same guy and they cost the same amount of money?
This is an issue that the Government need to address. Cannabis is proven to be many times safer than legal alternatives, but dangers of harder drugs can pose health risks. If the government regulated cannabis, this would effectively cut off the link to other drugs, much in the same way that alcohol is cut off from illegal substances altogether. It would also regulate the price of cannabis, and take it out of the cost of the criminals currently running the cannabis supply chain, not to mention generate vast amounts of money for the Government which would be raised in taxes.
So as prices continue to rise, I will not take my bud for granted, as chances are the price of cannabis will keep on rising until the UK adopts a regulated system. Recent developments in drugs laws mean softer sentences will come into effect for smaller quantities of drugs, which hopefully will slow cannabis inflation. But prices will continue to rise, as everything always does, and I fear that in ten years’ time when reading back on this article I will be astonished at how cheap cannabis was back in 2012.
With Thanks to Derek Williams for additional points