TRANSFORMING HEALTH — The state’s office of medical marijuana director says cannabis dispensaries are failing to pass along cost savings to patients.
Average wholesale dry-leaf cannabis dropped from $10.65 per gram in January 2021 to $6.65 per gram over the past month, Director John Collins said at a March 22 advisory board meeting. That’s a 38% decrease.
Meanwhile, average retail dry-leaf cannabis fell from $14.90 per gram to $13.40 over the same period — a decline of just 10%.
The number of grower-processors and dispensaries has exploded during that same period, Collins noted. The number of medical cannabis users has also increased. Those are both factors that should lead retail prices to drop.
Regulators have few options because of how the rules were written in Pennsylvania, said Collins, who is retiring from his position this year. The state could implement price caps, but that may not address the issue. “We’re seeing the evidence of a competitive market, but this is again illustrating a bit of a holdback on passing those savings along to patients,” Collins said.
Patients should be demanding lower prices, and an advisory board subcommittee should scrutinize why retail prices aren’t falling, Collins said. The advisory board is intended to ensure patient access, safety and treatments.
“I’m clearly calling out today, secretary, a red flag that needs to be investigated,” said Collins, responding to a question from Pennsylvania Health Secretary Keara Klinepeter.
High prices are a problem because they force some patients out of the legal medical cannabis market, said Lehigh Valley NORML Executive Director Jeff Riedy.
“We’ve been pressing the department for many years, obviously since the program began, that everything was priced out of the range of many patients,” Riedy said.
The state has recently implemented initiatives to waive annual cannabis license fees for some lower income people, Riedy noted. That has helped people. However, costs remain high for many of the approximately 460,000 people in Pennsylvania who rely on the legal cannabis market.
“It’s serving the industry more than it’s serving the patients right now, and that needs to change,” Riedy said.
Marijuana advocates have long criticized Pennsylvania’s tightly regulated system, which does not allow recreational marijuana, nor products such as edible cannabis and home cultivation of marijuana plants. A recent national report gave the commonwealth a “C-” ranking, recommending some of those changes.
Five companies with midstate retail locations — Zen Leaf Dispensaries, Trulieve, RISE, Fluent and Organic Remedies — did not respond to requests for comment.