When I deliver cannabis to people who count on me to grow it for them, sometimes I get asked “Why is this so expensive? It’s not all that hard to grow a plant, is it?”
I work hard not to get angry when I hear that question. I remind myself that people I supply cannabis to might be struggling financially. And none of them have ever grown cannabis, so they don’t know how much work and money it costs to do it. I wrote this article not just to explain retail marijuana prices to them, but so you as a marijuana grower can see why your prices are valid.
First of all, there are minimum costs for growing cannabis. Every marijuana garden is different, and indoor marijuana growing costs a lot more than outdoor growing. If you’re setting up a grow room for the first time and want to harvest at least a pound of buds or more every season, you’re investing in a professional LED light, grow pots, a hydroponics system, root zone media, light stands, dehumidifiers, air conditioning, gardening tools, reverse osmosis filtration, a grow tent or reflective material, fans, meters, nutrients, and cannabis seeds or clones. These start-up supplies can easily cost $2000 or much more.
You also have ongoing operating costs including mortgage or rent, electricity, nutrients, water, and equipment maintenance and replacement. Add in the costs associated with the value of your labor. Serious growers spend several hours per week in their garden, and this labor is worth money.
Your cultivation expertise is also worth money. Grow op managers in legalized marijuana states are paid on average $60,000 per year. Your marijuana growing time and skills are a market commodity.
When you add up all your initial and ongoing marijuana growing costs, then add up how many ounces of cannabis you harvest from that investment, you determine how much each ounce costs you to grow. But this simple calculation isn’t the only factor that determines how much you charge per ounce.
The cannabis marketplace and cannabis prices are impacted by state marijuana legalization. Some states with legalized cannabis dispensaries and grow ops have high retail prices due to taxes and fees. In these states, black market growers operate profitably despite the legal white market.
In other states, such as Oregon, there’s a cannabis supply glut. Wholesale and retail prices have crashed so badly that many profitable cannabis growers and sellers had to close down.
There are legal marijuana dispensaries where I live. They’re charging an average $10-13 per gram for cannabis that isn’t as potent, fresh, safe, and tasty as what I grow. Regardless of what it costs me to grow cannabis, I’d be a fool to charge a lot less than what the dispensaries are charging.
Instead, I charge around $7-9 per gram with a minimum purchase requirement of one ounce–lower than legal weed prices, and my buds are way better too.
One marijuana growing operating cost I didn’t mention earlier is one that many growers are hesitant to fully acknowledge…because it’s scary.
This cost is the legal and personal risk you take growing marijuana. Marijuana is still illegal federally, and even the most lenient state legalization laws include possibility of arrest and prison for home marijuana growers and sellers.
Along with the threat of arrest and imprisonment, security-conscious marijuana growers must make significant sacrifices to preserve their safety and security. Smart growers live isolated lives. You don’t invite friends, family, lovers, repair people or others into your home when you’re growing marijuana. Why? Because grow rooms have characteristic smells, sounds, noises, and very bright lights.
You might mistakenly believe that the family birthday party you hosted in your grow house was safe, but you’d be surprised at how curious people are about that room with the locked door–the one that smells like jet fuel or skunks, and has bright light coming out of the crack at the bottom of the door.
The stark truth is, if somebody knows or suspects you have a grow room, they can blackmail you with that information. Or get you busted.
This might seem like paranoia, but I know of many cases in which a bitter spouse, ex, or other associate used a grow op against a person, especially in child custody, divorce settlements, romantic break-ups, and business disputes.
The less people who know you’re growing the better. Bottom line: keep people out of your grow house. You just can’t have a normal social life. A prudently security-conscious marijuana grower lives a lonely life, deprived of normal socializing, always worried anytime something breaks that you can’t repair yourself, or a delivery driver shows up at the front door when the smell of skunk, diesel, and other strong cannabis odor is leaking from the grow house.
The loss of a normal life is worth money to me, and is one factor I use to justify my cannabis prices.
Another cost of growing cannabis is one most growers neglect: financially preparing for getting arrested. I have a criminal defense attorney on retainer, fully briefed on my situation, ready to help me immediately if police show up to bust me for growing weed. The retainer is $5000. If I was arrested, I’d spend more than that if the case goes to trial, and also for bail, court costs, fines, etc.
One of our team members was arrested for having a three-light grow room. Total costs for attorneys, bail fees, and other expenditures related to the arrest were $13,700. And this was for a relatively small grow room, one felony charge, and a first offense. If it was a more complicated case with the potential for longer prison time and/or larger fines, it can cost a lot more than that.
Prudent growers invest in an attorney on retainer, and have a separate fund sufficient to cover the cost of escaping from the harsh penalties of being arrested for growing marijuana.
You have to ask yourself as a grower—how much are my life, freedom, safety, and peace of mind worth? Because you put all that at risk when you grow marijuana, even in the most legal states.
I’ve known growers who earned a decent income growing marijuana, but then got busted, paid for attorneys, had their assets seized, were fired from jobs, lost custody of their children. I’ve known growers who were robbed, pistol-whipped and severely injured by marijuana thieves. I’ve known growers injured by police.
When robberies or police raids happen to marijuana growers, whatever profits they made growing and selling marijuana are more than totally erased by being attacked by robbers, or busted by police.
One of these drug war victims said to me, “Even if I’d made a hundred thousand dollars a year growing weed for the past ten years, it wouldn’t be worth what I’ve gone through and lost.”
And that, my marijuana growing friends, leads me to emphasize that the monetary and labor costs of growing marijuana, along with living in fear of police and rippers, justifies you charging as much as you can get for your marijuana.
If anyone ever complains to you about your marijuana prices, forward them this article. And never apologize for making good money selling cannabis. It’s a righteous, dangerous profession, and you deserve to get paid well for doing it.