There is a flood coming and it is going to last way more than 40 days and 40 nights. Before you start filling sandbags and stockpiling canned goods, though, be aware that the flood we are talking about has nothing to do with water or the weather. No, we are talking about a flood of boofy midgrade weed cultivated on a massive scale by investor backed BizCon bois who wouldn’t recognize cannabis culture if they tripped over it.
“But wait, Beard Bros., dispensary shelves are already jammed full of overpriced midzotics,” we hear you saying to yourself right now. But no, YOU wait, it’s going to get much, much worse before it gets better.
As legal (ie. taxed & regulated) cannabis markets begin to mature across the country, some interesting data has started to emerge when it comes to wholesale market trends.
Most curiously, average THC levels appear to be on the decline nationwide. We will be the first to tell you that THC alone does not tell the entire story of the cannabis plant, but there is no denying that consumers are being trained to demand high levels of the psychoactive cannabinoid in all of their cannabis products be it flower, concentrates, edibles, tinctures and more.
Consumers are being sold on this half-baked demand because dispensaries have fallen into the same mental trap that THC levels are all that matters. On the wholesale side of legal cannabis markets, the managers in charge of stocking their shop’s shelves are regularly shunning or at least devaluing high-grade cannabis flower that exhibits a robustly balanced spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes in favor of hype strains that can hit arbitrary thresholds for THC potency.
It’s like a snake eating its own tail – shops claim custies demand THC while custies see shops giving priority to high-THC products and brands.
A recent report from a group called Confident Cannabis analyzed wholesale sales data from all states with recreational cannabis laws on the books in 2019 and their findings reflect this mobius loop of misplaced priorities.
In Oregon, the study found that cannabis flower that tests at 30% THC or higher enjoys a price markup of 62% over buds that clock in somewhere between 20-30% THC. A similar devaluation occurs once you drop under 20% THC.
Get this… apparently some wholesale buyers and sellers are adhering to the formula that a pound of wholesale weed should cost $50 for every percentage point of THC revealed on lab tests. That is so stupid it ought to be painful just to consider. The conflict of interest this potentially creates between testing labs and their clients is something we have written about before.
But knowing that demand for THC is at an all-time high, why is the average THC level of legal weed experiencing a slight decline? Some “experts” say that it is due to the rising popularity of CBD. Others claim that it can be chalked up to the incoming wave of canna-curious “soccer moms” who may not want to get blasted by a wake n’ bake only to get couchlocked eating Lucky Charms in their jammies all day.
Those factors certainly play some role in all of this, but we like to take more of an Occam’s Razor approach to it which is that the simplest answer is usually the right answer. To us, the simple answer is MONEY.
Since we know that higher THC products demand higher wholesale prices, it only makes sense that a price inflation like what is seen in Oregon gets passed down to the retail customer.
Again, to be crystal clear, the level of THC in a batch of cannabis is not a fair or accurate way to judge the quality of that batch, but that is exactly how the legal markets are judging quality these days.
The average cannabis consumer that ventures into the legal marketplace, however, is often put off by high prices and higher taxes. In far too many dispensaries, the only alternative, price-wise, is low to mid-grade weed.
One visit to the Emerald Triangle in Northern California will quickly convince you that there is plenty of fire weed with all the aroma, flavor, and effects that you desire with THC levels lower than 20%. But here in Cali, for example, the legal market is not educating consumers about the Entourage Effect, and it is not rewarding growers who cultivate plants and strains that deliver that effect. It is conditioning everyone at every stop of the supply chain to focus only on THC, spoiling the potential for a market populated with the full spectrum of cannabis strains and cannabinoid profiles.
In most regulated dispensaries, we get top shelf or boof, period.
It’s pretty easy math at this point. If you have a 100k sq. ft. cultivation space that cost you multiple millions of dollars to secure, permit/license, and build out, and you immediately realize that you cannot produce top-shelf weed on that scale, you have a choice. You can strive to create a product that will still exhibit a broad spectrum of beneficial compounds and offer it to the market at a fair and affordable price… OR … you can bang out waves of boof. Right now, most purchasing managers in legal dispensaries will pay the same price per pound for either.
It’s only a matter of time before these talented craft cultivators who strive for balanced genetics and strain profiles decide that the legal market just isn’t worth it. Thousands of them decided that before they even saw what a shitshow legal weed can be which is why the UNregulated cannabis markets in “legal” states still thrive.
Batten down the hatches, fam, there’s a boofstorm a’brewin…