The US is still of two minds on marijuana: While 16 states now consider it a medicine, others continue to hand down heavy sentences—including jail time—for simple possession. The result is a fractured market with prices that vary wildly by region. Not surprisingly, the actual numbers are hazy; there’s no price index for pot as there is for hops or tobacco. But a collective of geographers called Floatingsheep recently set out to clear the air. They gathered more than 14,700 consumer reports submitted anonymously on the site PriceOfWeed.com, stripped out the outliers, and created a map that interpolates the range of prices across the contiguous US. Here’s a look at the sprawling gray market that gets some high and others heated.
California’s so-called Emerald Triangle—Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties—is the center of a coastal green rush. Mendocino officials estimate that pot cultivation accounts for up to two-thirds of the local economy, and plentiful supply means low prices throughout the Pacific Northwest. See Change Strategy forecasts that the medical-marijuana markets in California, Oregon, and Washington will bring in more than $1.3 billion this year.
Some of the highest prices in the country are found in an L-shaped swath running through the Dakotas and into southern Minnesota. The reasons for that are uncertain, but the DEA has seized or eradicated fewer cannabis plants here than almost anywhere else in the country. Either the agency is soft on cowboy cartels or, more likely, folks just don’t grow a lot of weed up here. The prospect of a year’s hard time for lighting up in South Dakota could be a factor.
Prices are steep, but several mid-Atlantic states and the nation’s capital now allow medical use. Although New York has partially decriminalized low-level possession, cops in the Big Apple arrested some 50,000 people last year for having pot “open to public view”—a 69 percent jump from 2005. The Department of Justice estimates that 20 percent of high-potency pot produced in Canada each year passes through the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in New York state.
*Punishable amounts vary
Map: Monica Stephens, Mark Graham, and Matthew Zook (floatingsheep.org)