It’s become a bit of an exciting joke in the UK cannabis scene. To hear that someone has just paid around £50 a gram for some imported Californian flowers is mind blowing, as it is the same amount that many people think is already an overly-inflated price when it comes to buying grams of oil and concentrates.
Recently we have shared our Fair Trade Cost Calculator with a number of growers right across the country. We have started to see the true cost of cannabis and how the hourly rate of a grower has a dramatic and direct result on the cost of cannabis.
When it comes to growing skill, the difference between good and bad quality cannabis is obviously recognisable by eye. But there are a lot of growers that can produce seriously high quality cannabis, with a great resin production, aesthetic appeal, with smell and flavour profile to match – so the question comes down to, what quantity of that quality can they grow without some level of compromise. That compromise might be quality, look, strength, smell, but usually when people try and take on too much – or try and feed their plants more to get more yield – consistency is an issue. It takes skill, and skill takes time and learning lessons. Some growers of the older school of thought know what cannabis is and are just as shocked as us at how the price has inflated and encourage consumers caught up in the hype train to “put some seeds in the ground themselves”.
But not all growers feel the same. Because of this some growers feel that they have earned a social status and the respect of others it gives them the position to charge a much higher price for their product. Even though they are producing more in the same space the price has not gone down, but increased.
Due to the hype of Cali weed which is now flooding the UK market with vendors demanding the outrageously ridiculous price of £30-50 a gram, UK for-profit growers are looking to cash in on this. If you ask for more it must be worth more right? Well, no, but this kind of ethos and business model seems to have really taken a hold of many cities’ cannabis communities. Everyone is getting on the pop top train, the baggy is dead (which we are pleased about) but in its place, with a protective casing for that herb, is a steep price tag. Much of it is the same bud by the same local growers that was being sold at £10 a gram/£35 an eighth last year, and is now being sold at £50-60 an eighth – but you have to remember this comes with a free slap (a sticker not an assault, but with that hit to the wallet…go on you may as well punch me to add injury to the insult)!
Fair Trade Grade
So back to the Fair Trade Cost Calculator that the UKCSC have created, we have seen that the skill of the grower only changes the production cost of the cannabis by no more than £1.50. This means that the cost of production on average is between £1 and £2.50.
In a legal market we would expect to see growers paid around £12 an hour which is similar to the hourly rate a gardener in a legal cannabis company would earn in Colorado. If you were an expert grower the rate would be more like £25 an hour and we will see how this reflects on the price of a gram and an ounce in a moment.
When sharing this information about the industrial cost of producing cannabis regardless of if you are at home in a small tent with 9 plants or less or renting a building and growing 25-100 plants, we were challenged by several growers who contested that cannabis could be produced this cheaply in London. They argued that cannabis could not be grown for less than £300 an ounce, and claimed that “this is a good and fair price because everyone else sells theirs for £400”.
So, with interest, we put their grow information to the test. The Fair Trade Cost Calculator allows you to put in all the variables that have a financial impact on the cost of producing cannabis. Equipment, electricity, nutrients, cuttings or seeds, space and even the grower’s time. The result was as we expected. The cost, even when renting a spare house and paying council tax on it, came to £1.29 per gram. The cost of a gram when paid £12 an hour was £3.85 per gram, and an ounce was £107.79. A whopping £192.21 less than the £300 paid by a consumer for that same ounce.
I wanted to know how much a person values themselves per hour to charge £300 an ounce. Using the rather handy tool, I was able to change the hourly rate until the final cost of an ounce came to as close to £300 as possible. At £298.94 an ounce the gardener is being paid £44 an hour.
Some people may at this point say “oh my gosh, are they for real?” And here’s the thing. Yes. They are.
But there’s a very complex set of reasons behind all of this.
Prohibition Has A Price
Cannabis is a prohibited crop. Because of this a higher than needed price has been attached to it. If you are going to take the risk of producing it on some kind of scale to be paid for it, how much is worth going to prison for? This is the rationale used for calculating the cost of breaking the law. Because prohibition’s price structure has been attached to it, other people who like things that have a prices attached to it with a large margin will start to make it part of their business model in order to accumulate finances. They care very little about any “movement” or “culture” and are happy profiting off of prohibition prices. Then you have people who love cannabis and want to earn that wage. Purely fueled by a prohibition policy.
Risk is obviously a factor that comes down to the individual, how much a person values their freedom is completely on them. They may have a family, if they were to go to prison for growing maybe they are securing money to make sure they have the support in this harsh time, that is what businesses do when they cost a product up, not for potentially going to prison but to cover any potential loss that could be incurred.
And that’s what £300 and £400 ounces are. Prohibition prices, calculating the cost of risk. Well, we hope so – we won’t lie, some have seen this as a way to live the “high life” of a self proclaimed cannabis king but what goes up…What these growers will go on to do to supplement their income when cannabis is no longer the cash cow it currently is remains a mystery.
The question we can ask however is this. When Londoners and anyone else buying cannabis for these kinds of prices learns just how much cannabis does cost, and how much is fair to pay someone for their time growing it, will they continue to pay these hyper inflated prices? Or will we start to see cracks in the false cannabis economy that stoners (who say they hate it to the core) are not only helping prop up, but creating by buying into and then thinking they can replicate that model and things will be all gravy? I can’t count how many events I have been to events where people have complained about the cost of cannabis but do nothing to take matters into their own hands or challenge the current flaws in the system around them.
Grow your own if you have the space, form a Collective if you have like-minded friends or are a patient or know a patient that you are sick of seeing pay too much for their medicine.
Read about our Tagged Plant Collective model and consider becoming part of the cannabis growers union to support the cultivation of personal amounts of cannabis.