Legal weed is hurting San Francisco hippies. Poor flower children.

Legal weed is hurting San Francisco hippies. Poor flower children.

VicesJuly 29, 2013

Peace, love and fuck the dispensaries seems to be the new motto for all inconsolable transients who moved out of their parents house and to the streets after they failed a test in high school. California's "Medical Marijuana" market has deflated the prices of weed so much so that it can be felt in the black market aka the hippie communities of San Francisco. And they don't like it. 

In 1967, the summer of love drove flocks of flower children to California looking to smoke, play music and avoid all responsibilities. Those flower children have since evolved into young transients looking to do the same thing only this time they have iphones and American Apparel clothes. For these transients, selling weed was their way of making an income and being able to travel. Dispensaries have since crushed that dream as one transient told by priceonomics.

“The hippy kids used to be able to sell their weed real easy at high prices,” he tells us. “There were lots of customers and they made enough in a few days to travel for a few weeks. Now though...”

...they have to actually work like everyone else in the world. Unless, of course they head to greener pastures. And by that we mean traffic the drug across state lines and to the East Coast where the prices are double, the margins sizable, and everyone's smoking the sweet mary jane. There's only one catch, the risks of trafficking are significantly higher.  

It may seem odd to risk crossing state lines with an illegal substance when it can be grown and sold legally in California. But as the street kids experienced, legalization reduced prices by attracting a glut of new farmers and sellers. Although technically only legal for medicinal purposes, marijuana prescriptions are so easy to acquire that legal dispensaries compete with dealers.

So dealers ship weed in FedEx packages, pay couriers to carry it, or cross the country themselves with product hidden in duffel bags, motor homes, and horse trailers, risking arrest and seizure because risk reduces competition and allows them to profit at higher margins. The movement of weed from California to New York is not new, but it has persisted or even increased since legalization.

While legalization increased the supply of weed in California, the segment suggests that increased transparency - rather than increased supply - explains the price drop. Chuck, a dealer who switched from selling weed in California to New York and quadrupled his income, told WNYC, “There’s plenty of weed in New York. There’s just an illusion of scarcity, which is part of what I’m capitalizing on. Because this is a black market business, there’s insufficient information for customers.”

Since weed is illegal in New York, customers can’t check out different suppliers and compare their prices and products. So even if supply is high, customers still pay a premium as dealers are difficult to find and suppliers are not forced to compete as meaningfully on price or quality.

This is a strong argument for anyone making the case that legalization across the country would eliminate the black market. On the other side of the aisle, the same park where the summer of love began has since turned into a place where the kids are doing hard drugs, violence is up and hippie communities are in jeopardy.  

For years, these lackadaisical inheritors of the hippy legacy have gotten by on easy weed profits in California. But street kids in the park today have to panhandle and hustle customers. Gangs are dealing in Haight-Ashbury and bringing violence to the park that was once home to the Summer of Love. There are fights and hard drugs and the system of hippie communal living and sharing is being strained by hard times. Forty six years after the end of the Summer of Love, legalized weed is threatening what’s left of its legacy

Our reader question of the day, does this make a good argument for or against the legalization of marijuana?