Northwest Medical Marijuana Guide

Intruder Alert

Some Say an Invasion of Out-of-State Bud Is Driving Down Cannabis Quality

Intruder Alert

GIANT POT FARMS Local medical growers can’t compete.

Pot grown in other states doesn't necessarily qualify as medical cannabis under Washington State law, but that doesn't stop scores of California growers from trying to sell their bud to Seattle dispensaries.

"I get one to three calls a day from people trying to sell me bud, and most of them are out-of-state calls," says Muraco Kyashna-tocha, director of Green Buddha Patient Co-op in Ravenna. She's received sales pitches recently from California, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, and even the South. "I had a call from Arkansas last week saying, 'Hi, you buying bud? I have good meds to sell you.'"

"I say, 'Don't ever call me again,'" explains Kyashna-tocha, who boasts that her co-op carries only local, organic cannabis from growers she trusts. Knowing exactly what sort of product she's carrying allows patients to select the cannabis best suited to their conditions (such as pain management).

But Green Buddha appears to be the exception. While it's impossible to know what percentage of product in this unregulated market comes from out of state, some people are willing to speculate. More than half of the cannabis found in Seattle dispensaries comes from beyond Washington's borders, Kyashna-tocha ballparks. Likewise, Luke Westgate, who grows medical cannabis, also figures that number above 50 percent.

Exporting pot into Washington may be particularly lucrative for growers, given the patchwork of medical cannabis laws across the country. While regulations from our state's Department of Health restrict collective gardens to 45 plants, large operations are widely tolerated in California. That economy of scale makes it cheaper to grow marijuana there than in the small, indoor gardens typical of Washington. Add to that California's sunny climate—which fosters more outdoor cultivation, requires no expensive electricity for indoor lights, and produces larger plants—and profit margins bloom even more.

Not all of that cannabis is medical, either. Plenty of illicit operations crop up in national forests and state parks.

"This is organized crime at its finest," Westgate continues. "They grow 60 to 100 acres at a time, and they can afford to sell it for much less. I just don't think people understand how much of an invasion is here."

In the University District, Urban Roots director Michael Lick says he only carries local cannabis but believes the growers have "oversaturated the market" in other states, adding, "that's why people are trying to move stuff out of California."

The result, according to some members of the local cannabis community, is a surge of lower-quality pot. Lacking medical standards, it can be laden with pesticides or mold, the result of poor techniques for curing and shipping the bud.

Which isn't to say customers aren't seeking quality, local cannabis.

On a recent Wednesday, about 15 purveyors circled a large room with tables of local strains at the Northwest Cannabis Market in White Center. "Every time we open the door, 250 people walk in," says director Mike Keysor. The farmers market—which focuses on small nearby producers, just like farmers markets selling food—has grown so popular, he says, the market went from weekly to daily on March 30.

Still, the purveyors that day at the farmers market lamented the out-of-state pot. "I think the California cannabis here is affecting the ability of people putting money into growing the finest products," said vendor Greg Maddox.

Cannabis from California can cost up to $2,000 less per pound than pot grown here, which could force local growers to lower their prices or standards. "If you are growing 1,000 plants outdoors with a crew compared to someone growing 15 plants in their basement, it's a completely different scene," Kyashna-tocha explains. "It's impossible to compete."

As a result of that competition, some dispensaries may carry out-of-state pot that costs less and looks good, but may have a lower potency and a mysterious provenance.

In response, the Association of Medical Marijuana Producers and Processors recently formed to promote the "highest quality Washington gardens." That group has set a standard of "patient-ready cannabis," certifying the herb is free of pesticides and comes from local producers.

However, it's buyer beware on the open market. Some experts say that customers should look for cannabis that doesn't smell of mold and hasn't been shrink-wrapped for shipping. "Local bud is still loose," Kyashna-tocha says.

In the long term, a solution could require regulation and inspection. But Westgate warns, "I really don't know how you regulate other than letting people come into your grow and monitor it. Some people think that would be an invasion of privacy." recommended

 

Comments (9) RSS

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hans millionaire 1
Northwest Cannabis Market in White Center is the BEST!!!!
Posted by hans millionaire on April 13, 2012 at 1:45 PM · Report this
El Matardillo 2
"Medical standards." That's pretty funny!
Posted by El Matardillo on April 15, 2012 at 1:09 PM · Report this
3
Considering the huge profits involved, someone ought to be looking into whether or not the dispensaries are vertically integrating with the community gardens.

Pretty sweet deals to be had. Grow it for $20 an ounce, sell it for $300 and up. If I ran a dispensary and had a community garden or four on the side, I'd be spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the competition too.

By the way, I don't smoke it or grow it. I might be the only commenter without a vested interest, other than following the money. Which you can bet the Stranger will never dare do.
Posted by Mister G on April 15, 2012 at 6:01 PM · Report this
4
Another thought: Could it be that the local market is getting saturated, and that we're seeing price competition? Sure, uh, smells like it.

Here we have the local dispensary attacking the cheaper competition for being "foreign." Sounds like what's really happening is that profit margins are under pressure.

That raises the next issue. Maybe marijuana isn't as popular as the stoners want to imagine. If the market is showing signs of saturation at this point, maybe the demand is somewhat limited.

So much for your prediction (in the New York Times) of $600 million in tax revenue if the state steps in, joins hands with "local" growers, and splits cartel profits under the guise of "legalization."

Oh, what a tangled web we weave/When first we practice to deceive!
Posted by Mister G on April 15, 2012 at 6:08 PM · Report this
5
Not all of that cannabis is medical, either. Plenty of illicit operations crop up in national forests and state parks.

"This is organized crime at its finest," Westgate continues. "They grow 60 to 100 acres at a time, and they can afford to sell it for much less. I just don't think people understand how much of an invasion is here."


Puh-leeeze! The dispensaries are selling "medical" marijuana if it comes from a community garden, but if it comes from a plantation it's "organized crime" and, what, not medical?

Such pretzel logic. Use Occam's Razor to cut through all of that: medical marijuana is a figleaf. Everyone knows it. Come on, Dominic, I don't have to be stoned to laugh at you.
Posted by Mister G on April 15, 2012 at 6:12 PM · Report this
6
Some Say an Invasion of Out-of-State Bud Is Driving Down Cannabis Quality?? <<<< That's a TOTAL JOKE!! Either what you grow is good or it's not. Sounds like they're bitter because CA has BETTER POT and it's cheaper.

Green Buddha is a place I'll both avoid, and let my friends know NOT to go there.

"The result, according to some members of the local cannabis community, is a surge of lower-quality pot."

"As a result of that competition, some dispensaries may carry out-of-state pot that costs less and looks good, but may have a lower potency and a mysterious provenance."

California has some of the best quality medical marijuana. The legalization and opening of dispensaries increased the demand for a higher quality product not reduced it. Washington growers need to step-up if they want to compete. That's how a free economy works.
Posted by Nopey on April 19, 2012 at 9:44 PM · Report this
7
I just think it is simply a saturation problem. I have been a patient for two !/2 years and have observed dispensaries grow in number from about a half dozen to ,what, about 50 or 60 in the tri-county area. Common sense tells you that the local growers of small operations can't keep up with the demand of this many dispensaries. Product has to come from somewhere. I find that shops advertising local, organic weed with testing results clearly and honestly labeled give me the best weed. Urban Legends in White Center is a perfect example of a quality, trusted vendor.
Posted by calvingIII on August 24, 2012 at 12:14 PM · Report this
8
I too call bullshit. We are talking about a crop here, the only factor in it's inflated price is it's illegality, you do not have to be a wizard to grow pot. I'm from out of state, it was apparent within my first few visits to "highly rated" local dispensaries I was surprised by just how much of a sham it all was. Bud quality is sub-par in most places, and I often found jars of shake being displayed for $10/g. Some do sell decent, even dank bud, but remember, they are still drug dealers.
Posted by sboman on September 26, 2012 at 5:51 PM · Report this
9
I live out of state and I wish my state would allow us to sell to your state. I have 4 patients and myself which allows me to grow 30 plants which yields far more then myself and my patients can use. If your state has a shortage and it becomes legal for me to provide your dispensaries with my medicine I believe that would be great the quality is far better then you give us farmers credit for. In fact other growers here are currently supplying you with medicine (which I know is good) except they risk criminal charges for doing so
Posted by john420 on May 19, 2013 at 12:44 AM · Report this

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