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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2007 Sep;90 Suppl 1:S40-51. Epub 2006 Oct 20.

Retail marijuana purchases in designer and commercial markets in New York City: sales units, weights, and prices per gram.

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Institute for Special Populations Research, National Development and Research Institutes, New York, NY 10010, USA.


This paper documents the bifurcation of the market for commercial marijuana from the market for designer marijuana in New York City. Commercial marijuana is usually grown outdoors, imported to NYC, and of average quality. By contrast, several varities of designer marijuana are usually grown indoors from specially bred strains and carefully handled for maximum quality. The mechanisms for marijuana sales include street/park sellers, delivery services, private sales, and storefronts. Retail sales units vary from 5 dollars to 50 dollars and more, but the actual weights and price per gram of retail marijuana purchases lacks scientific precision. Ethnographic staff recruited marijuana purchasers who used digital scales to weigh a purposive sample of 99 marijuana purchases. Results indicate clear differences in price per gram between the purchases of commercial (average 8.20 dollars/g) and designer (average 18.02 dollars/g) marijuana. Designer purchases are more likely to be made by whites, downtown (Lower East Side/Union Square area), via delivery services, and in units of 10 dollar bags, 50 dollar cubes, and eighth and quarter ounces. Commercial marijuana purchases are more likely to be made by blacks, uptown (Harlem), via street dealers, and in units of 5 dollar and 20 dollar bags. Imported commercial types Arizona and Chocolate were only found uptown, while designer brand names describing actual strains like Sour Diesel and White Widow were only found downtown. Findings indicate clear divisions between commercial and designer marijuana markets in New York City. The extent that these differences may be based upon different THC potencies is a matter for future research.

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