The study, published last year, was designed to track drug prices as a measure of policing effectiveness.
More effective enforcement, the authors argue, should disrupt marijuana production and trafficking to the extent that measurably higher costs would be passed on to consumers. Or, put more simply, strangling supply should drive up price to levels consumers won’t pay.
READ MORE: Looser pot laws may be on horizon
So what did they find?
The street price of marijuana varies wildly across the country.
The territories, and Newfoundland and Labrador, had the country’s most expensive pot. Nunavut topped the list, at almost $20 a gram. Marijuana was cheapest in Quebec and New Brunswick, at $6.29 and $6.38 a gram, respectively.
The authors speculate that the price difference has to do with whether a province had to import marijuana to meet demand.
“Where prices are lowest (British Columbia, Quebec and New Brunswick) a significant fraction of their production may be exported. … While in areas where the cost is high (the Territories and Newfoundland and Labrador) it may be that a significant proportion of demand is met through imports.”
“These price differentials may be indicative of higher costs of transportation to remote locations, where there are lower levels of local production, but still strong demand.”
Among major cities, pot in Montreal was cheaper, at $6.78 a gram, than Toronto ($8.41), Calgary ($8.18) or Vancouver ($7.56).
The document was released under access-to-information laws. Federal researchers scraped the data from priceofweed.com in September, 2012.
The authors found that pot is cheaper in the fall, as an annual outdoor crop hits the market alongside indoor-grown marijuana that is produced year-round.
“A price spike in summer and a decline in the fall might be explained by a restriction in supply at the start of the outdoor growing season and some increase in supply due to outdoor summer production being released into the market.”
But year-over-year, the price of marijuana is fairly stable.
The priceofweed.com data is “far from perfect,” the authors concede, but the 5,752 data points, they argue, comprise a set “large enough to account for intentional or mistaken entry errors and outliers. … The erroneous entries may eventually be evened out by the sheer amount of correct entries.”
They recommended that “data … be harvested and analyzed on a continuous basis” so that “important trends in price fluctuations may be continuously monitored.”
Update, March 26: Public Safety spokesperson Josée Picard declined a request to interview the authors of the report, saying that it was a “preliminary discussion paper … for internal use only”.
Interactive: Explore the price of pot from coast to coast to coast. Click a province for more info. Double-click to zoom and drag to move around.