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The high price of legal marijuana

Tuesday morning, Washington state will become the second state in the U.S. to have marijuana stores.

Demand is so high for 'mind-altering bud' that, despite high prices, stores are expected to sell out within hours or days.

"What do you do when your shelves are empty? Do I just send everybody home? Do we try and stay open? I can't pay people if we aren't selling anything," says one excited retailer in a Reuters article.

I've never operated a marijuana store, but I think if you sell out of everything in one day you should probably keep your employees on the clock and pay for a big party. Store owners who don't maintain a private stash for the occasion may be forced to buy beer.

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How can stores sell out of a plant alleged to grow like a weed? The "invisible hand" of capitalism, we are taught, is supposed to ensure ample supply and low prices.

But, it seems many growers "failed to clear regulatory hurdles to get their product to market."

It's probably tough to see the need to jump through government hoops when there's a field of marijuana growing nearby.

And it's even tougher to get the state to get around to approving would-be growers. According to Reuters, fewer than 80 growers statewide have been approved out of more than 2,600 who asked to be given permission to grow marijuana.

The state board that approves growers and retailers is "overwhelmed."

"We didn't expect 7,000 applicants," said one official of the number of interested growers, processors and retailers.

Once a grower is approved, the crop has to be lab tested. So far, only about "10 football fields" worth of marijuana have been tested by the state.

Tuesday morning, stores will limit sales to one or two grams, about enough for two to four joints according to some sketchy websites I just experienced.

The end result of limited supply and high demand is high prices -- $25 or $30 per gram. That's roughly twice the price of medical marijuana, says Reuters.

In Seattle, the unfettered capitalists known as drug dealers sell marijuana for $250 an ounce, less than $10 per gram, according to

In Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, prices started high too, but over the 4th of July weekend stores were selling an ounce for as low as $85 , about $3 a gram.

Looking at those numbers, I'd have to think capitalism is putting a lot of street dealers out of business.

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