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Poll: People think legal cannabis is safer — but expensive

Poll: People think legal cannabis is safer — but expensive

More than one-third of cannabis consumers perceive legal cannabis to be safer and of higher quality than black-market marijuana, according to the results of a new study in the journal Addictive Behaviors. Well over half see it as easier and safer to purchase, 

“Legal cannabis products were perceived as more expensive than illegal products, particularly among frequent cannabis users. The prevalence of this belief suggests that price may in fact be a barrier to transitioning to the legal market,” the researchers wrote, adding that this may be surmounted, “given that legal cannabis products may be perceived as higher quality.” 

The study found these positive perceptions to be even more pronounced in jurisdictions where cannabis has been legal for a longer period of time. 

According to the study, 37.6% of respondents said they perceive legal cannabis to be of higher quality than illegal cannabis, 40.3% believe it is safer to use, and 59.2% see it as more convenient to purchase, while 56.1% see the transaction as safer than illegal cannabis. 

Only 3.7% of the respondents said they perceive legal cannabis to be of lower quality, though 24.7% said they don’t believe the quality is better or worse than that of illegal cannabis. Nearly three times as many respondents (1,690 to 586, respectively) said they believe legal marijuana to be more expensive than illegal cannabis.

Only 4.1% of respondents said that they believe legal cannabis to be less convenient to purchase. 

Daily vs monthly users

One arguable limitation of the study is that it did not ask respondents about specific cannabis products or intake methods, and if their perception of their safety or pricing differs in any respect. In addition, only 13.2% of the respondents were daily marijuana users, who make up a disproportionately high percentage of the general public that uses legal cannabis consumers.  

The study used data from Wave 1 of the International Cannabis Policy Study (ICPS), which was carried out in the US and Canada from August to October 2018. The data was collected on web-based surveys completed by 5,330 randomly selected respondents aged 16-65 who answered an email invitation. The residents live in six states with legal medical and recreational cannabis programs and established cannabis dispensary storefronts: Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State. 

Out of the 5,530 respondents, only 154 came from Alaska and 846 from Nevada, while over 1,000 came from each of the rest of the states. The respondents were equally male and female, nearly three quarters had more than a high school education, and 80.5% were white. 

And while only 13.2% of the respondents were daily marijuana users, 33.6% were listed as a “never user” and 39.7% as a “less than monthly user.” 

Convenience trumps price

The researchers posit that in general the public perceives legal cannabis as of higher quality and more convenient to purchase, with price being the notable exception to the overall more positive public perception of legal cannabis. 

They also state that perceptions were more positive in states with more “mature” cannabis programs, reflecting the decrease in prices that typically takes place the longer that legal cannabis programs are in place, as supply lines improve, customers become savvy at price comparison, and businesses begin to compete more heavily with one another. 

For example, in Nevada, where the first recreational dispensaries open in 2017, 41.1% said they believe legal cannabis products to be more expensive. In Colorado though, where the first legal recreational dispensaries opened in 2012, only 26.4% of respondents said the same. 

The researchers state that this could indicate that consumers are “aware of price differentials, and efforts to make prices of legal products competitive are warranted.”

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