Is there something fishy about police drug busts of illegal, unregulated cannabis on the street? When reports of a bust makes it on the news, most people are deeply fixated on images of suspects typically in denial of the act and giant bags of seized cannabis on the table. But as Johnny Green from the Oregon Cannabis Connection points out, cops could be taking advantage of this diversion.
Green speculates that police could be inflating street value estimates of unregulated cannabis. To prove this, he ran the numbers of a recent bust in Monroe, Washington, and compared it with dispensary and non-dispensary prices in different locations across the US.
During the investigation, which took place at a Goodwill store, police confiscated 3.75 pounds of cannabis. Law enforcement officials, who may have been on a high (a natural one, like a runner’s high) from all the action, estimated the street value to be $24,000.
That comes out to $6,400 per pound.
Something doesn’t look right there – especially considering that the bust took place on the West Coast, a region known for excitingly low cannabis prices. An online, global price index of cannabis that tracks pricing across the US suggests that high quality cannabis in the state of Oregon costs $210 per ounce on averages. Other price points were offered for comparison: $100-$125 per ounce for non-dispensary sources and $180-$300 per ounce for Oregon-based dispensaries. In Colorado, an ounce will cost you around $192, according to Priceonomics.
“There’s three areas where we’re not going to compromise [on pot]: selling to kids, for one; big-profit growing, for two; and driving under the influence,” said Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, a Seattle Police Department’s spokesperson. “The one that we’re truly interested in is the large-scale illegal-grow operations.”
On the other side of the country, the same thing is happening. A bust in Joppa, Maryland, resulted in the seizure of 249 pounds of cannabis, valued at $1.1 million by local police. The estimation comes out to be $4,418 per pound. Law enforcement officials spearheading the investigation threw more logs in the fire by enumerating random items they seized, from a handbag to an off-road motorcycle.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why cops are jacking up street value estimates. Maybe law enforcement groups are innocently out of touch when it comes to black market prices. With unregulated cannabis activity at an all-time low, police could be taking every opportunity they get to make headlines.
Savings from buying cannabis on the street is probably what’s driving the black market on the West Coast. In California, one could save up to 27 percent by purchasing unregulated cannabis. In Michigan, that figure is significantly lower at nine percent; and in Colorado, you might as well be getting your goods from a retail shop, since you’re only saving a measly two percent (it’s safer too).
“If you’re engaged in that activity, don’t think that just because the laws have changed that we’re going to prioritize those any less. We’re very motivated to ensure that those laws aren’t broken,” explained Whitcomb.