The State of Arizona’s Cannabis Culture in 2018

Back in 2015, I wrote an article about how Arizonans are price gouged on medical marijuana. It’s been a few years since I wrote that article, and a lot has changed in the cannabis industry since then. While I’ve never dropped out of the cannabis industry, I have mostly been quiet about it through and since the 2016 election cycle.

It’s about time to revisit this issue and several others as we approach another election. Politics tend to blur the issues, and I want to make sure I document as many of the important facts as I can.

First, let’s revisit the issue of medical marijuana pricing.

Arizona Medical Pricing

In 2015, I highlighted Harvest of Tempe and Sunflower Meds selling grams of marijuana flower for $15-$20. Sunflower Meds has since been rebranded as Sky Dispensaries, but we’ll still take a look at the pricing of these two dispensaries to look for changes.

Harvest of Tempe has definitely dropped its prices, as you can see from the two screenshots below. Value grams dropped from $15-$10, Premium from $17-$12, and Superior from $19-$15.

Harvest of Tempe 2015 Menu Pricing
Harvest of Tempe 2017 Menu Pricing

Sky Dispensaries has dropped its prices a bit, too. Here are screenshots of the pricing in 2015 when it was known as Sunflower Meds vs a December 2017 screenshot of Sky’s menu.

Sunflower Meds Price Gouging
Sky Dispensary fka Sunflower Meds in 2015
Sky Dispensary menu prices in 2017

But are these lower prices enough? To find out, we’ll take a look at some recreational marijuana menus in states where it’s legal.

Recreational Pricing Outside AZ

Let’s start with Main Street Marijuana, my favorite recreational dispensary in Vancouver, WA.

There are three important points to notice in this menu. First I want to point out that actual potencies are listed for each strain, as well as the farm where it is grown. These are important considerations for cannabis consumers, and this information is often hidden in AZ dispensaries.

If you don’t like a specific farm’s grow techniques or have heard horror stories and would like to avoid their product, you really can’t. The majority of AZ dispensaries are not at all transparent about where their product comes from. Don’t believe me? Try bringing a microscope or any equipment into a dispensary to look at their product – they won’t be happy.

Main Street Marijuana Recreational Marijuana Menu 2017

Next you’ll notice an eighth (or 3.5 grams) sells for much cheaper than in Arizona, sometimes even below Arizona’s gram prices. Keep in mind that Washington retail marijuana sales are currently subject to an excise tax of 37 percent per RCW  69.50.535 and WAC 314-55-089.

By comparison, Arizona taxes medical marijuana at a tax rate of 6.6 percent for the state, and anywhere from 2-3 percent for cities. So once again, we’re reminded that not only are Washington’s prices much lower than AZ’s, it’s doing so with a tax rate up to 5x higher.

Also, a medical marijuana card is required to purchase in Arizona, so you have to add $150 for the state’s card fee + $75 to $200 for the doctor’s appointment, for a total of $225+ annually to each medical card holder in the state.

While Arizona dispensaries have lowered prices, clearly they’re still price gouging consumers.

For more proof, let’s take a look at the other recreational states. Next Level Wellness is one of my favorite recreational dispensaries in the state of Oregon. It was once managed by the gorgeous Jessica Tutt, who is a serious expert in the the cannabis industry. She knows her shit, as does owner Will Thysell.

Here’s the pricing in the Eugene/Springfield area.

As stated, pricing doesn’t include the 20 percent state and city sales tax (about 2.5x as high as Arizona’s tax rate), but even accounting for that, you’re looking at a high price of $12 per gram. This makes Oregon recreational cheaper than Arizona medical, and keep in mind, these price differences only get more exaggerated as you increase volume.

Next, let’s take a look at Green Cross, the first recreational cannabis dispensary I ever visited in Denver, CO.

Pricing is consistent at $12.25 per gram, whereas eighths range from $30-$40. This price includes a 2.9 percent state sales tax, 10 percent state marijuana sales tax, and 4.6 percent city/county taxes in Denver. That adds up to 17.5 percent, the lowest of any recreational state, but still twice as high as Arizona’s medical tax.

Despite the higher tax rates, recreational marijuana in Denver is about the same price as medical in Arizona, and you’ll get a much better discount by going medical in the state of Colorado.

A medical card in Colorado costs only $15, which is 1/10 the price of Arizona’s, although the doctor visit fee will be in the same ballpark.

So, as we can see, Arizonans are still price gouged on pricing. Anyone who’s bought cannabis in any of these other states can also tell you that the quality is much better than the dried herb we get in AZ. In fact, when I worked as a bud trimmer in the Pacific Northwest, it was a well-known fact that whatever product wasn’t good enough to sell in Oregon, California, or Washington for premium prices was sent down to AZ and Nevada to sell at discounted rates and recoup losses.

But being price gouged on low-quality dirt weed isn’t the only problem facing Arizona marijuana consumers.

The Long Road to Legalization

Another important topic I’ve discussed previously on this blog is the industry infighting that doomed the 2016 cannabis legalization effort.

If you’re not aware, Proposition 205 was rejected by voters in the 2016 election, nullifying any chance of state legalization. It’s one of the first pro-marijuana laws to be struck down by voters in this state, and the source of the problem is a group of activists called Safer Arizona, led by Dave Wisniewski.

Safer Arizona didn’t agree with the voter initiative placed on the ballot by the Marijuana Policy Project and NORML. They felt it didn’t provide enough freedoms so instead of taking baby steps in the right direction like sensible humans, these fucking idiots extended the problem for several years and put major obstacles in the way of legalization.

Because of the actions of these mentally deficient morons, Arizona is further away from decriminalizing cannabis use than ever before. In fact, we’ve now taken several steps back in this state, as concentrates and edibles are under attack.

While I’m sure they meant well, Safer Arizona has done more to hurt Arizona cannabis than help it. Back in 2015, Arizona was seen as a safe bet for states likely to legalize in the 2016 election. Since then, we’ve been completely disregarded, and there’s no hope we’ll be legalized in 2018. In fact, Arizona is now likely to lag behind even the federal government in legalization efforts.

So let’s all take the time to thank Safer Dave and his band of mentally retarded followers for making life infinitely harder for everyone. All of their points about helping people convicted of drug crimes or medical patients are moot because their hypocritical actions completely contradict their untrustworthy words. Not even the MPP or NORML want to help this state anymore, and it’s all thanks to Safer Arizona.

Well, I suppose to be fair, it’s not all due to their complete incompetence. Safer Dave also had help killing marijuana in Arizona from one of the most notorious opioid manufacturers in the country.

Attack of the Opioid Epidemic

Like Safer AZ, Insys Therapeutics Inc. is somehow forever linked to the Arizona cannabis industry. It’s hard to believe because Insys isn’t actually a medical marijuana company at all. In fact, the company donated $500,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, making it the single largest anti-marijuana donor in the state.

Billionaire founder John Kapoor, along with Chief Executive Michael Babich and several other Insys executives have recently been charged for bribing doctors to prescribe fentanyl, a synthetic opioid even more dangerous than natural opioids widely known to be deadly and addictive.

The company also makes Syndros, a synthetic THC compound, in its Chandler, AZ facility. Somehow this dangerous chemical has been granted Schedule II status by the DEA, something marijuana has yet to gain.

Insys represents a major threat to Arizona’s cannabis legalization, even with the Trump White House cracking down on the opioid epidemic.

Because Kapoor and his cohorts are making a profit from destroying cannabis, they could even be more dangerous than the blind idiots at Safer Arizona. At least they actually mean well – they’re just too stupid to understand what they’re doing. Kapoor knows exactly what he’s doing.

We’ll have to wait and see how all of this turns out, but while you wait, you’re going to continue being price gouged on marijuana. You’re going to continue being persecuted for using it, and you’re going to continue waiting for at least another three years (most likely many more).

That’s the state of Arizona, for better or worse.


Dr. Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. You can find his work in Cracked, High Times, HuffPost, Lifewire, Forbes, Fast Company, and dozens of other places, although much of it is no longer under his name. Dr. Penny loves annoying fake media.

2 thoughts on “The State of Arizona’s Cannabis Culture in 2018

  • December 3 at 6:26 am

    I’m fully with you on weedmaps being shit, though the Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project are necessary evils. Sometimes you have to fight the devil with a demon.

  • December 2 at 7:13 pm

    #StonedNotStupid The DPA hyper regulations are unacceptable and unfair and should be rejected at every turn. We support Safer AZ fully in thier quest for #FairAndEqualAccess to #Cannabis and #Hemp God’s greatest botanical gift! #BoycottDPA #BoycottMPP #BoycottWeedMaps Demand better, demand more!


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