The Cost of Weed Over Time

Medically reviewed by Alexander Tabibi, MD
January 29, 2021
Money and Cannabis
Money and Cannabis

How Much Did Weed Cost Back Then Compared to Now?

If you have an older family who smoked cannabis decades ago, you have likely asked them how much it used to cost back in the day.  We all know that feeling of jealousy when we learn just how inexpensive it was compared to now.  But the reason why the cost of herb has gone up so much over the years is not solely the result of inflation.

This piece will be comparing cost of weed between the 1970s and now, while also explaining the various factors that have changed its value over the years.

Why Has the Price of Cannabis Increased Over the Years?

Before we get into the numbers, it is important to understand why the cost of weed is so much more now than it did 50 years ago.  Of course, inflation has undeniably played a factor, as, to put it simply, everything is much more expensive now than it was in the 1970s.  But there are other reasons as well which show that in many ways, the price increase is fully justified.

THC Levels Were Lower

First, the average buds of the 1970s had THC levels that hovered around 1%.  Meanwhile, today, the cannabis you can find in your standard dispensary averages around 16%.  That is quite a big difference, and it explains why many old-schoolers say that today’s stuff is just too strong for them.  It does not cost farmers more to produce high-THC strains, exactly, but it does increase the value of the product, because generally, you can get more out of each purchase.

Cannabis was Less Fresh

A factor that contributed to the THC levels being lower decades ago was oxidization.  Oxidization is the process of the compounds becoming weaker due to exposure to unfavorable conditions.  The old stuff was often imported from far away, with most of it coming into the United States from South America, illegally, of course.  This meant that it had to travel far without being protected in a controlled climate and environment.  So, by the time it reached the hands of the buyer, it had oxidized and consequently lost a good deal of its potency.

Lower Quality Back Then

Today, when you go to a dispensary, you get beautiful, lush buds.  But that was not always the case.  Ask anyone who was smoking in the 1970s, and they will tell you that their bags used to be a mixture of the buds, stems and leaves.  The stems and leaves, as we know, have far less THC than the actual flowers, which meant that the quality was lower, and the overall product less potent.

Better Growing Conditions

These days, we have various techniques and technology that allow us to grow better product.  We can control the climate, and we have access to advanced hydroponic methods that yield a more consistent crop.  This has undoubtedly changed the market in a number of ways.

  • One is that we have become less reliant on imports.
  • Secondly, we can better control THC levels, as they are affected by various climate-related factors.
  • It is also given us the ability to breed various strains more successfully. Back in the day, cannabis enthusiasts could not choose from the wide variety of strains that we have access to today.  They had to settle for what they were given, and likely did not even ask about the strain type, since there was not such a huge difference between each one like there is now.

The Cost of Weed Then and Now

The Cost of an Ounce in the 1970s

The cost of an ounce of cannabis cost between $10 and $20, generally speaking, in the 1970s.  It is worth pointing out that back then, the term “ounce” wasn’t used as often as it is today and was usually referred to as a “five-finger bag,” meaning that the quantity was usually determined by how many fingers you could fit onto the surface of the bag.  Now that you understand the differences in quality and potency, combined with the natural result of inflation, that amount does not sound as crazy as it may have at first.  But still, that is a pretty profound difference, and feeling some jealousy is perfectly natural.

Read more about the soaring cost of weed in the 70s  from the NYTimes

The Cost of an Ounce Now

So, what is the cost of weed today? What does an ounce cost today?  Well, there are more variables than there once were, with the strain being the biggest factor.  However, today’s ounce will likely cost between $150 and $250, depending on the quality, pure buds to other plant material ratio and where you live, as well as the strain, of course.  Premium strains, as in ones that are super rare, can definitely cost you even more.

Technology and Other Key Factors of Today That Play a Role in Higher Costs

There’s more to the increasing cost of weed than just increase demand and more potent products. With more technological capabilities in growing and harvesting cannabis  of course raises the cost in order to supplement the actual technology being used, coupled with the costs of research, running a facility that is complaint with FDA standards, hiring employees in all types of skilled positions, and even counting for inflation.

Also, since we now have devices that can allow for either a better smoking or vaping experience when using dry herbs, this also drives up the overall costs.

When taken this all into account, as well as the other factors we have touched upon, you can see how and why the cost has risen over the past several decades.

Today’s buds cost considerably more than they did 50 years ago, but inflation alone is not to blame.  While yes, you will be paying more than your relatives did, you’ll also be getting far better quality, and need far less to get the desired results.  Therefore, in many ways, present day costs are fully justified.