Arizonans always get the short end of the stick. Our Phoenix Suns and Arizona Cardinals continue falling just short of winning, and it seems like everything in Phoenix is secondhand from California.
We’re used to being screwed in this state, but the medical marijuana community has lost their damned minds with their outrageous price gouging of consumers. Not only that, but it looks like there are much more nefarious purposes behind all the cannabis lobbying in the state.
With the huge profits being raked in by Arizona’s existing “clinics” and medical marijuana businesses, it’s no wonder groups like Safer Arizona and Arizonans for Mindful Regulation of Cannabis are willing to kill the recreational bill in order to continue raking in profits.
If I were profiting so much by jacking up prices well beyond where they should be, I wouldn’t want laws to change either. Here’s a quick look at the price gouging in action.
Tax Rates in Arizona, Colorado, and Washington
The laws in Arizona tax medical marijuana just like any other goods sold, which is at the standard rate of 5.6% for the state. County and city sales taxes vary, but the average is around 8%.
Colorado collects a 15% excise tax on the average wholesale market rate, a 10% state tax on retail marijuana sales, and a state sales tax of 2.9%, in addition to the county and city sales tax. This puts it at around a 30% sales tax.
Washington has a 25% tax on producer sales to processors, a 25% tax on processor sales to retailers; a 25% tax on retailer sales to customers, a state Business & Occupation (B&O) gross receipts tax, a state sales tax of 6.5%, and varied local sales taxes. This makes Washington’s effective tax rate around 42%
So, Colorado’s recreational sales tax is approximately 4x Arizona’s, and Washington’s is over 5x Arizona’s taxes. It stands to reason that this would be reflected in the pricing, but it’s not. In fact, Arizona’s cannabis is still more expensive (and for much lower quality and mislabeled product). Here are a few prices from dispensaries around the Phoenix valley:
Harvest of Tempe is selling “Superior” grams for $19, “Premium” for $17, and “Value” for $15…$15 for a gram is their lowest value. What a crock of price-gouging shit. You’ll also notice these frauds only label percentages on certain strains. Labeling has always been an issue in Arizona marijuana.
Also, keep in mind that “top-shelf” vs “bottom-shelf” flower is a 100% objective rating. Blue Haze isn’t somehow more magical than White Widow or Purple Haze. It’s all the same stuff, and I promise these people don’t have anyone truly checking the quality of one shelf vs the other. You can taste the difference between a top-shelf and bottom-shelf vodka or whiskey (bottom shelf is usually more watered down), but the most bomb-daddy-super-premium-best-high-chronic weed costs the same to grow as the bales of dirt weed.
Sunflower Meds is selling $20 grams. Keep in mind, this is to medical patients, as Arizona only has medical marijuana. Not only that, but neither of these dispensaries has any cannabis that can compete with the quality I’ve seen in Oregon, California, Colorado, Washington, and even Nevada. In fact when working as a bud trimmer in Oregon last year, the people I worked with explained how any product they can’t wholesale in Oregon or California gets sent to Arizona, where standards are much lower.
To give you a better idea of the price gouging, here’s a menu from Main Street Marijuana, a recreational dispensary in Vancouver, WA, which is a suburb of Portland, OR. You’ll notice that even with Washington having a tax rate 5x higher than Arizona, recreational gram prices are half of Arizona’s medical gram prices.
How is it that recreational grams in Washington are selling for half the price of medical grams in Arizona? I thought cannabis businesses cared about compassion. I thought Cannabis was safer than pharm, alcohol, and all that other stuff Safer Arizona says. Clearly AZ cannabis businesses are trying to squeeze profits out of people who are suffering from painful and life-threatening illnesses and need medicine. There’s not much lower you can get on the scale of business ethics.
Here’s Greenman Cannabis selling medical marijuana in Downtown Denver, where the cost of living is much higher than Phoenix and taxes are as well, yet Greenman Cannabis easily gets medical marijuana prices below what’s offered in Phoenix. How can this be, especially when it looks on the surface as though Greenman has less variety. In traditional retail, this would make them more expensive, not cheaper.
So when I hear dumb things throughout all the infighting between Arizona cannabis activists, I can’t help but wonder why I would ever care about local in-state cannabis businesses, when they’re clearly not caring enough about Arizona patients. I tried bringing up my concerns to Safer Arizona and instead of owning up to it, they turned a blind eye, denied it, and several members even tried degrading me on their Facebook page before removing me.
Clearly these marijuana professionals don’t want to discuss the shortcuts they take in quality testing and how they just arbitrarily decide to raise prices. Instead they prefer to act as though the math above doesn’t exist. All those links and pictures are from real sites, and this has been going on for years. I have receipts for weed in 5 different states to prove it.
Arizona MMJ cardholders are getting the lowest quality weed I’ve seen on the entire West Coast of the U.S. They’re paying the highest prices for it too. This is despicable, and one of many reasons I’m ashamed to be an Arizonan and will never get an MMJ card in my own home state. I’d rather support the underground pot market than this inflated economy of people willing to rip off their neighbors. I would support a cartel over any of these con artists who seem intent on price-gouging the ill.
Shame on you, Arizona cannabis businesses, for allowing this price gouging to continue. I do not support such actions and will continue supporting out-of-state marijuana operations that are much more trustworthy than the shysters in my backyard. Your inability to self-regulate is why we all want you to have the harshest and strictest regulations – you deserve it. You need to be watched, because when you’re not, you willingly rob consumers blind. I’m so glad we have a government to protect us from thieves like this.
More Sketchiness in AZ’s Cannabis Industry
Even at the SWCC next week, which is Phoenix’s version of the marijuana business conferences that are all the rage these days, I’m disappointed with the lineup. Whereas Los Angeles and Las Vegas drew professionals with deep roots in the industry, two of SWCC’s biggest draws are Cheryl Shuman and Katherine Grimm, two women known throughout the industry to have little to no experience in cannabis.
While heavy hitters are making major moves and drawing investments all over the country in the cannabis industry, there are few stories in Arizona to be proud of. Instead we’re the state that’s price-gouging medical patients and begging people to support the local businesses doing it.
No thanks, scamabis fraudtrepreneurs, I have my own connects and don’t need your overpriced weed.
Brian Penny is a former business analyst and operations manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work has appeared on High Times, Cannabis Now, Hardcore Droid, Fast Company, Huffington Post, The Street, Main Street, and BBC.