ACMPR and dispensary price comparisons

An in-depth analysis of how medical marijuana pricing compares between Licensed Producers and Canada's medical cannabis dispensaries

Abstract summary

We logged publicly available information for dispensary cannabis and cannabis produced under the ACMPR over a two week period in September 2016. Of the 143 offerings produced under the ACMPR, 31% contained significant amounts of CBD, with an average of 9.82%CBD. The remaining 98 offerings had an average of 17.42% THC.

On average, cannabis from the ACMPR was priced at $8.94 per gram. Increased strain variety and price was observed in dispensary cannabis data; the average price for cannabis from a dispensary was found at $10.88 per gram. Several strain specific comparisons suggested that dispensary cannabis was comparatively more expensive. The data sets were reconfigured by sales medium (online, storefront) to show that cannabis sold from a physical location was typically priced at $2.51 per gram more than cannabis sold online (either through an online dispensary or an LP).

Intro

As medical cannabis becomes more accessible and its medicinal qualities continue to gain wider notoriety, we've started to see a shift in the amount and quality of information related to it. We hope this new level of data will answer some of the questions previously clouded by prohibition.

The ACMPR/MMPR has ushered cannabis production into a new era where legal producers must keep strict track of operational variables on both the production and sales side. This era of data transparency allows us to begin analyzing cannabis from multiple angles including price and medicinal content. For now, we’re going to look at the differences in price between cannabis available from varying sources.

We've drawn from several online sources for this study. First, we've used pricing data for dried cannabis from LP websites to capture and define the medical market. This LP data was collected on September 16th 2016 over a two hour period; all available flowers and blends at that time were logged.

Dispensary data was aggregated over a two week period in the second half of September using both secondary and primary methodologies. In-person dispensary shopping was conducted on the final week in September. Dispensary menu sites (Leafly and Weedmaps) were used to generate pricing data for dispensary cannabis. Pricing data for dispensary cannabis was logged for 4 cities, and three dispensaries were visited in person.

Part 1: LP cannabis

We’ve logged 143 dried cannabis flower and blended offerings that were available on September 16th, 2016. Data for this component of the study was primarily generated using an automated data miner that logs publicly available information from LP websites, while the remaining data was inputted manually.

There were 45 strains with substantial CBD levels (above 3%), leaving 98 offerings with significant amounts of THC compared to CBD content. Average CBD percentage for the 42 strains was 9.82 percent. The 95 THC offerings had an average content of 17.42% THC. The maximum amount of CBD logged was represented by Canna Farm’s Canna Bliss (20.5%). The maximum amount of THC logged was represented by Tweed’s Baker Street (27.9%).

For LPs using traditional strain names, White Widow was the most commonly available strain, with 3 LPs offering this well known strain. Shark Shock was also somewhat common, with availability from 2 LPs and a CBD variant from another. Strains like LSD, Pink Kush, Bubba Kush, Cannatonic, CBD Kush, and Sour Diesel were also offered by more than one LP. We’ll look at these closer in our strain-specific comparisons.

1Per gram pricing for LP cannabis blends and flowers ranged from $2.50 to $15.00. MedReleaf’s Trimmings product represents the market minimum price while the market maximum ($15/gram) is defined by 10 offerings from 3 LPs. The average per gram price across the 143 offerings was $8.94. Fairly consistent from when we last did this study, during the first half of September, we logged 125 offerings in total, with an average per gram price of $8.62.

2Part 2: dispensary cannabis

For the dispensary component of this study, we logged menu data from randomly selected dispensaries in Vancouver, Toronto, Victoria, and Montreal. We also included pricing data from two online dispensaries. We did not log all data for all dispensaries, both storefront and online. Duplicate offerings between franchise dispensaries were included only once. In total, we logged 211 offerings of cannabis from dispensaries. Unlike offerings from the MMPR/ACMPR, dispensary cannabis rarely lists THC and CBD content info online, but this information can often be found in the storefront. We’ve logged these numbers in a few cases where we were able to discreetly do so.

3Variety is more diverse in dispensary cannabis when compared to the LP market pool. Niche variants and new cutting edge strains are available in dispensaries *(it can be difficult to verify the accuracy of these names and genetics), although it is often difficult to verify the accuracy of these strain designations. In total, we logged about 150 unique strains of cannabis from these dispensaries.

4Rockstar was the most common strain amongst the strains we logged: it was carried at 7 dispensaries. Death Bubba was carried at 4 dispensaries. Larry OG was the most common OG Kush variant. Jack Herer was also carried at 4 dispensaries. Nuken was also a fairly common offering.

The per gram pricing from the dispensary cannabis we logged ranged from $6 per gram to $17 per gram. Medicanna in Vancouver offered a C-Weed at $6 per gram. The most expensive per gram pricing we observed ($17/gram) came from Canna-Connoisseurs in Toronto. For the dispensary cannabis we logged in this study, we observed the average per gram price at $10.88, over $2 higher than the average for LP cannabis.

Part 3: market pool comparisons

On the graph below, we’ve shown both LP and Dispensary (online + storefront) pricing data sets ordered by increasing price.

Disparity between average and median prices in the dispensary data is double what was observed in the ACMPR data. For the strains we logged from dispensaries, most were priced at $10 per gram, although the average price per gram was actually $10.88 because of a large percentage of offerings priced above the median price point ($10). In fact, of the 212 offerings of dispensary cannabis we logged, 186 (86%) were priced at or above the market median price ($10).

In the ACMPR market, pricing structure has more balance. The market median is $8.34, which is $0.43 below the market average. When looking at the number of offerings priced above the median market price point, we find only 52% of the market priced above the median point.

Comparatively speaking, dispensary pricing structure shows a heavier imbalance towards higher per gram prices. Among the producers regulated under the ACMPR, 48% of all availability is priced below the median price point; in the dispensary prices we logged, only 14% of all availability was priced below the median price point. Later on, we’ll break out the online and storefront dispensary prices to uncover any patterns there between prices for cannabis sold online versus in person at a dispensary storefront.

Part 4: strain specific comparisons

Let’s look at strain specific pricing data for both dispensary and LP cannabis. We’ll talk about each separately.

Blue Cheese is available from RedeCan as well as Cannabis Culture. Blue Cheese was shopped in-person at a Cannabis Culture location in Toronto. The dispensary had a sign posted that said THC was 20-22% and CBD was about 2%. The RedeCan offering is less expensive and has 13% THC and 0.05% CBD.

6Bubba Kush was available at two dispensaries and two licensed producers. RedeCan has the lowest per gram price for their Bubba Kush, with 13.6% THC and 0.05% CBD. The two dispensary offerings of Bubba Kush didn't disclose THC and CBD content, and were priced slightly above the mid-range for dispensary cannabis ($10-$13/gram). The licensed producer MariCann had the highest price at $15/gram for a Bubba Kush with 20.17% THC.

7Two licensed producers had CBD Kush when the data was taken. Their prices are within $0.25 of each other and, surprisingly, have the same CBD content (11.2%). They do differ in THC content: the Broken Coast variety has 8.9% THC and the Canna Farms variety has 7.2% THC.

8Death Bubba is quickly becoming a popular cross. Currently only dispensaries carry it. Pricing ranges from $8/gram from an online dispensary up to $13/gram from a brick and mortar storefront.
9Also only available at dispensaries, God’s Green Crack is a Green Crack crossed with a God Bud. Two of the dispensaries that carry it are located in Ontario, with the other two located in British Columbia. Three of the four dispensaries sell GGC for $10/gram.

10We found Girl Scout Cookies available at three dispensaries and from one licensed producer. The licensed producer (Canna Farms) priced their 25.9% THC Girl Scout Cookies at $8.25 per gram; two other dispensary versions with unknown THC values are priced around the $8 mark.

11Jack Herer was one of the most common strains included in the study. Not including Bedrocan’s flagship strain, there were six varieties of Jack Herer included in the study. Herbal Dispatch had the cheapest price for a Jack Herer with unknown THC and CBD content. Canna Farms had a version with 17.6% THC for $10 per gram. Tilray has a Jack Herer variant with 18.8% THC priced at $11 per gram.

12LA Confidential was offered by Aurora and Herbal Dispatch over the term. The Aurora variety (26% THC) was priced according to their flat pricing structure at $8.00 per gram. The Herbal Dispatch variety has an unknown THC content and is priced at $10 per gram.

13Moby Dick is a White Widow cross that is gaining popularity, only one licensed producer carries it (RedeCan), but we also found it in two dispensaries. It is priced at $6.00 a gram at RedeCan for a 15.7% THC version. Moby Dick with unknown THC values is priced at $10/gram from two BC dispensaries.

14Pink Kush is a hugely popular strain. Three licensed producers had it available on September 16th (Broken Coast, MedReleaf and Tilray), and it was also available at two dispensaries during the same period. THC Delivery has a version for $8.00 per gram. Broken Coast sells it at $8.25 for a variety with ~21.7% THC. The Tilray variety is priced at $12.00 per gram for a Pink Kush with 23.2% THC.

Rockstar was one of the most commonly available strains for dispensary cannabis. During the time that the data was taken, no licensed producers had Rockstar available, but it is commonly available in the ACMPR as well. Pricing for Rockstar ranged from $8 - $13 per gram.

16Shishkaberry is a Canadian favorite. Emerald Health produces a version with 17.5% THC for $8.50 per gram. It is also available at storefront and online dispensaries for between $11 and $13 per gram.

17Super Lemon Haze is available from two licensed producers in the ACMPR. Broken Coast has a version of Super Lemon Haze available with 22.4% THC for $8.25 per gram. Mettrum also has a version available for $8.60 per gram with 17% THC.

18White Widow is one of the more historically popular varieties of cannabis. It was available from 3 different licensed producers and one dispensary. MariCann had the least expensive White Widow variety available at $5 per gram with 17.02% THC. RedeCan has it available for $6.50 per gram with 15.9% THC. Whistler had a variety with 19.3% THC priced at $12.00 per gram.

19Part 5: cannabis pricing — online vs brick and mortar

Looking at the strain-specific comparisons, dispensary cannabis available at brick & mortar storefronts was often more expensive than cannabis available online. Pricing aside, purchasing cannabis in-person offers certain advantages over purchasing online, but the convenience and ease of purchasing from a reliable online supplier is attractive.

To show the trend in price difference, we’ve organized pricing data from licensed producers in the ACMPR with the data from online dispensaries, and separately, the pricing data from brick and mortar dispensary store fronts. We’re looking at per gram pricing only, shipping and taxes are not included.

Compiling all the 180 offerings of cannabis we logged from online dispensaries and LP websites, we see that the median price for a gram of cannabis is $8.78, and over 45 offerings are priced at this point. When we look to either side of the median price, we see more offerings at higher per gram prices and less in the $4-$8 range. The market minimum and maximum are defined by LP cannabis on this scale: the minimum represented by MedReleaf’s Trimmings at $2.50 per gram, and by MariCann, MedReleaf and Hydropothecary offerings at the maximum end. The weight towards higher priced strains brings the average for online cannabis (LP + dispensary cannabis) to $8.78 per gram.

Looking at the 173 cannabis offerings we logged from dispensary storefronts, we see prices weighted towards the higher end of the scale. We found that just over 2% of offerings were priced around the median and average per gram prices for cannabis available online ($8.78/gram). Median price for storefront cannabis logged was $10 per gram. In fact, 49% of the offerings from storefronts were priced at this point. The average price for a gram of cannabis from a dispensary storefront was found to be $11.29, which is $2.51 over the average for online cannabis.

The spans of all data segments were comparable, the difference between maximum and minimum prices for storefront dispensary cannabis was $11.00; online and LP cannabis was $12.50 (by the same measure). Despite the similar span, the two segments peak at different price points and overlap slightly around the $11 mark.

Part 6: final thoughts

We began this study by noting the pricing differences between cannabis produced and sold under the ACMPR and cannabis sold in a dispensary. While the pricing differences were unexpected, we also found a difference in average pricing between cannabis sold online and physical storefronts.

This trend brings about many questions that are likely already on the minds of physical storefront dispensary owners. Proponents of online stores maintain the major advantage to customers is convenience, but would medical patients trade this convenience factor to be able to select cannabis for themselves in person? As an owner, is giving that convenience to the customer cost effective when you’re renting frontage along Queen Street or East Hastings? And if so, do you pass the cost off to your patients and risk the higher-level competition in the upper (high-end) market segments?

Zoning laws and bylaws are rapidly changing in parts of Canada, notably in British Columbia, to allow physical store fronts. The effect that this new level of legitimacy will have on cannabis pricing is unknown, but the difference in pricing between the two retail mediums observed in this study certainly suggests that prices could increase in physical locations.

This will become more interesting when/if licensed producers begin to open storefronts and accumulate the extra overhead and staff required for operating a physical location. The inclusion of pharmacy distribution of cannabis could have similar implications.

We’re going to keep tracking these variables periodically to see how they change as the industry at large changes and is embraced by a wider demographic, and with a greater level of transparency.

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9 comments

  1. Deborah Reply

    Price wars have not started yet. When will the price come down to realistic?

  2. Alex Newman Reply

    I am curious as to why the price vs. THC level was not summarized in a chart as well. Indeed in most of the little abstracts, the dispensary marijuana had higher levels of THC than the LP version. I figure a price comparison based on the quality and strength of the marijuana is more important than simply a strain comparison.
    Additionally, many other 'difficult to measure' factors come into play as well- taste, bud size, organic vs inorganic, how well it was flushed, trimmed etc. In my experiences, the best dispensaries blow the LPs out of the water on all fronts.

    1. Profile photo of David Brown

      David Brown Reply

      I actually discussed this point with the author beforehand. It's a very good point. If the reported THC levels at dispensaries are indeed accurate, then the slight price increase is easily balanced out by a greater amount of THC. However, a few of the problems in collecting this data are: A) Not all dispensaries list their THC/CBD levels online, so it's hard to know what they are and B) While some dispensaries show verified testing results, it can be difficult to determine if the reported levels are accurate. One of the great things about legalization is more and more verified data coming in from the market that allows for better analysis.

      This was simply one collection of data from one small period of time in Canada, and with limited data sources. It's in no way intended to prove any argument one way or the other, nor did we seek to find one specific conclusion over another. Obviously some dispensaries are far cheaper than some LPs, as the opposite is true, as well. These are merely averages.

      In addition, this data also shows unlicensed, so called MOM (Mail order) dispensaries are also a bit cheaper than the brick and mortar retail shops. I think an honest analysis of all the info here shows this is not presented with the intent of making one form of retail better or worse than another. It's just numbers.

  3. RICHARD KUDRA Reply

    Obviously .... LP~!
    Written and paid for By the same !

  4. Noel Atkinson Reply

    I believe a very useful follow up study would be for lift to test dispensary and LP product for accuracy of advertised potency and for toxic substances. There have been only limited studies of toxicity of dispensary product in Canada and licensed producers in the USA and an independent study would likely be welcomed by consumers.

    1. Profile photo of David Brown

      David Brown Reply

      We would very much like to do this, but cost and legality are still a big hurdle for us on this project.

  5. Mario Zorro Reply

    I wouldn't hold my breath for cheap weed anytime soon, the new players are looking to cash in bigtime .Figure in all the costs of high security indoor bunker growing, retail space, employees, processing and handling. Add in multiple layers of cash hungry government ( 35K for a Vancouver storefront permit) BCGEU wanting it sold at LCB stores by their members , a sure to be hefty Federal excise sin tax and don't forget GST and PST or HST (whichever taxronym you care to use) celebrity branding ALA Willie Nelson, Bob Marley and Snoop Dogg You can see where I am going with this. I think I'll stick with my old hippy buddy who grows outdoors and sells respectable product out of the back of his pickup truck for 5$ a gram ( no i won't give you his number )
    Super Mario

  6. Bill Reply

    Why weren't taxes and shipping factored into the LP prices? The $8.94/gram average for the LP's becomes $10.10 with tax, plus additional costs for shipping ($5-$30 though some LP's are free). Very close to the $10.88 average for dispensary cannabis.

    With the ACMPR, patients are locked into the LP, so strain selection becomes VERY limited, sometimes with LP's having only 1 or 2 strains in stock.

    At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if you buy your medicine through an LP or dispensary; those prices are way too high for medicinal users.

  7. Gary Crombie Reply

    Hi I enjoyed your article btwn lp and storefront.

    I have used various lp's (what a joke these are) over the last year and a half and prior was good weed on the street.

    Question. Street prices 200 to 240 for 30 grams. Will the public tolerate these prices of lp's 250 to 400 and will continue to increase. Also the lp supply is terrible now..what's to happen.