In a video we released today on ISMOKE Media, we discuss the question “Why is Cannabis Getting More Expensive in the UK”. Indeed, the simple answer is prohibition, but let us dig a little deeper into the rise of UK Cannabis Prices.
The videos in this blog series are filmed in one take and are not normally pre-planned. I think the spontaneity is important. I often film with only a question in mind, then just see what happens when the camera starts rolling.
This question, however, “Why is Cannabis Getting More Expensive in the UK?” is something I have been thinking about for a while. I’ve seen prices skyrocket, especially since moving to London.
I first smoked cannabis at the age of 15/16, and maybe 3 of 4 times again before I got to university aged 18. My first experience UK Cannabis prices comes from this period, and I remember ounces costing £140 and eighths (usually 3g-3.2g) for £20.
Not long after, eighths began to cost £25, and “tens” (when is the last time you got a ten bag?) cost £12.50. Now on average it has jumped up to more than £10 per gram, with good cannabis costing £12-20 per gram in some circles.
One of the themes I touched on in the video is that the increased price does not always denote cannabis quality – I have paid £50 for 3.5g that could have been cut, dried and cured better. I have paid equal amounts for bud that was dipped in terpenes or sprayed with something fragrant that I didn’t enjoy, and I’ve paid (almost) that amount for bud that I have refused to smoke.
So, what’s the deal with UK cannabis prices rising in the UK?
UK Cannabis prices are going up because the demand is there, and because people are happy/willing to pay it. Under current drugs laws, no alternative exists to stabilise the market. The only thing people can do to lower the cost is to grow their own cannabis and face fear of prosecution if caught. Many law-abiding citizens who want – or need – to use cannabis cannot grow for themselves, due factors which may include living situation or lack of knowledge, so they are forced to purchase cannabis illegally on the black market.
This fear of prosecution and the risks associated with growing cannabis feed into this cycle that keeps the price high.
The market is bigger than ever and is not limited to UK-grown bud. Also contributing to price rises is the imported cannabis coming from places like Holland, Spain, and the US, as well as the sometimes ISIS-controlled trade routes that hash comes through to get to the UK (an article for another day!).
Importing cannabis comes with its own risks, often more so than growing in the UK, but if done successfully can result in serious profits for the often organised criminals who have access to a legal market.
There is one company legally growing medicinal cannabis in the UK, and that is GW Pharmaceuticals. They currently have the licence, and therefore the monopoly on the UK medicinal cannabis market, as far as the government is concerned. Watching an interview with their spokesperson, they produce tons and tons of cannabis extract every year, which goes into several products and is exported to several countries worldwide. This monopoly – being the only legal UK producer (outside of the government – again, an article for another day) – allows them to charge extortionate prices for their products, which are essentially cannabis oil tinctures.
In Project Storm, Jeff Ditchfield compares their product with an illegal sample of oil and finds that the illegal sample has more cannabinoids (the whole thing is worth watching and sharing, but skip to 1:42 for the comparison:
How can we combat this price hike, and what is the best way forward?
As mentioned in the video above, as a country we need to legalise, regulate and educate if we want to see a fair market here in the UK.
If our government were to legalise cannabis, they would see the great economic benefits of the new industry as they provide a framework for legal sale and access for adults in the UK.
Money would be raised in taxes from the sale of cannabis to adults, and in the increased sales generated in things like growing equipment as people pick up their gardening tools. This would likely equate to billions in the first year, and keep on growing (no pun intended).
We would also likely see a drop in A&E visits, as some people stay in – or go to licensed coffeeshops – on a Friday and Saturday where there would be no trouble and fewer accidents. Cannabis is proven to be many, many, many times safer than alcohol. So as people drink less and consume cannabis more, fewer instances would occur of people developing the long-term risk diseases associated with drinking.
Perhaps the most important thing – medical cannabis users in the UK would be provided with legal medicine, instead of relying on the black market. Not only would this benefit users with specific illnesses than cannabis known to treat; Coupled with education, this could lead to people switching from prescription pain medication, as we have seen in the US in states with access to medical marijuana.
Regulating cannabis will help ensure purity and quality for users, as well as stopping access to harder drugs.
Regulating the cannabis market can also impose an age limit, and while that may not be perfect (look at underage drinking in the UK), the numbers of teens trying cannabis will also likely fall (as shown in this US study done in Colorado) as it’s not seen as a “dangerous and exotic” / “right of passage” sort of thing.
Regulation is a better way forward than decriminalisation, where the economic benefits of cannabis cannot be fully realised, and where the black market still thrives. If the cannabis market is regulated and cannabis is mass-produced, the price will go down and illegal dealers will be priced out of the market. Just look at Denver where Cannabis prices averaged just $5.30 per gram due to 420 celebrations sales this year. Prices have been falling across the US as their cannabis market grows.
Another urgent need is cannabis education here in the UK. It is what I set out to do with ISMOKE, but there are millions of people in the UK that still don’t know the facts about cannabis.
I have found that people find it extremely hard to argue against cannabis education once presented with the facts, in particular, the medical argument, so in my mind cannabis education is the key which will (hopefully) unlock legalisation. We need to teach people the truth about cannabis – it’s medicinal benefits, the problems of the black market and its relative safety compared to legal drugs.
Overall, we will continue to see UK Cannabis prices rise in the UK until we can regulate the market. The government is missing out of huge profits by choosing to ignore all of the facts and info backing the cannabis legalisation argument, but it may be out of their hands. As the world adopts a more sensible policy towards drugs, in particular cannabis, the Government in the UK will hopefully be under more and more pressure to take another look at our drugs laws.
By educating as many people as possible in the meantime, we are doing our bit for the cannabis movement here in the UK. That, coupled with the levels of organisation and energy I’ve seen this year makes me optimistic for the future.
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