Hamilton

Ideal legal pot pricing is $10 to $12 a gram, study suggests

A new study out of McMaster University is zeroing in on the sweet spot where people say they would be happy to pay for legal weed instead of turning to the black market.

People willing to pay more for safer legal pot, but not too much more than black market prices

A new study from a researcher based out of McMaster University suggests $10 to $12 is the ideal price point for legal pot. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

A new study out of McMaster University is zeroing in on the sweet spot where people say they would be happy to pay for legal weed instead of turning to the black market.

The study, the first part of which was published by the peer-reviewed Addiction Journal this month, found consumers indicated $10 to $12 a gram was their ideal price range. It signifies respondents were willing to pay a little bit more for legal weed because it gives them assurances of quality and safety.

"At lower prices, people tended to prefer the legal option," said study author Michael Amlung, a McMaster University psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences assistant professor.

"But as the price escalated above around $10 to $12 per gram, we saw an overwhelming shift toward the illegal option. So we hope that can provide some actual empirical data to help policy makers to decide on the ideal price point."

Generally, people want to use it responsibly.- Michael Amlung, McMaster University psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences assistant professor

A final decision from the province on that price point remains elusive, with the Oct. 17 legalization date coming up fast. Ballpark numbers of $10 a gram have been bandied about since the previous Liberal government, but the Progressive Conservatives have not confirmed their pricing yet.

Typically, dispensaries in the Hamilton area charge around $10 to $12 a gram, with some "black market" prices hovering in the area of $8 to $10, Amlung says.

His research was funded in part through the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research at McMaster and St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton.

Canada's pot companies have been skyrocketing in value this year with legalization approaching, however their stocks are prone to wild swings. 2:22

The study started with a survey of about 3,000 people in U.S. states where pot is legal. In that number, there were 724 people who answered they had used marijuana in the last six months, and they were recruited for a followup survey that asked more questions about their preferences for legal pot pricing.

Once news broke that legalization was also coming to Canada, Amlung conducted a similar survey in the Hamilton area. The sample size was smaller, but the results were very similar to the U.S., he says.

"It was the same pattern of results," he said. Amlung is presenting the Canadian portion of his study findings this week at the Canadian Psychiatric Association conference. The Canadian portion is also under review by the Canadian Journal of Public Health.

So why do people appear to prefer the legal option, if the price point is right? Amlung says a lot of it comes down to legal weed having "high quality control standards," with no chance of contamination from other substances.

"Generally, people want to use it responsibly," he said.

"The illegal market is very well entrenched, but if we can make it more appealing to use the legal option … we would hope the [illegal] market share would decrease."

adam.carter@cbc.ca

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Adam Carter

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Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music in dank bars. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.

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