Are you Buying Weed or Water? A Sobering Cost Analysis

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Are you Buying Weed or Water? A Sobering Cost Analysis

You can almost hear angels singing as you purchase the freshest and finest herb at your local dispensary or through an online home-delivery hub.

Their harps have been strumming since the moment the bud was picked, dried, tested for impurities and placed in beautiful eco-friendly moisture, mold and UV-light resistant packages.

All this to ensure that your 4g of weed will still resonate with the same angelic melodies until you crack open the seal and savor its perfection. Of course you can also get the crumbles, “ditchweed”, or the unpopular bottom shelf stuff at a discounted price, but why spend $5/gram for sh*tty weed, if you can buy celestial bud for $20/g?

Photo courtesy of HopeGrown.org

Let us examine this question with elementary math, as there is no industry standard for moisture content on weed, and you may be paying a ton extra for water!

*Please note that moisture content refers to the amount of water in the actual plant, while humidity is how moist the air is around the plant. These two concepts are related, but not the same. How much water is in your body is only somewhat related to how dry it is outside.

The inconsistency of weight-based weed prices sprung up one fine day as a close friend (lets call him Peter) reported his experience of procuring some dubious dry bud. The ganja was stored for unknown amounts of time in the shorts pocket of another friend (let us call him Daniel) in a country where there are no dispensaries, scales, labels or fancy humidification jars.

Apparently this bud was almost crumbly dry and Peter, who is used to sniffing samples and examining trichomes under the microscope before purchase, was wondering whether there was any medicinal value to such dense sinsemilla.

It turns out that a really tiny amount of this “mishandled” bud was really potent, knocking Peter right out of his flip flops. Peter, a pretty educated cannabis enthusiast, rehydrated his bud but noted that his 4 grams of beach bhang went “much further” than the fresh, pre-packaged, angelic Mary Jane at home.

For cannabis elitists and entrepreneurs such ganja may sound like an invitation for a trip that heads south faster than migrating birds leaving Canada, however, there is a really important point to this pocket- weed story.

Image via Flickr user Raquel Baranow

A freshly trimmed flower contains about 75-80% water, incidentally this is the same as a newborn infant. Most adults walk around dehydrated, sporting a mere 50% water content. But as far as bud goes, you can’t smoke anything that hasn’t been dehydrated. Curing bud is both an art and science, after all there are books about it.

When complete, the ideal moisture content for flower should be between 10-15% its original weight. (Note that this is not the same as the humidity % that is recommended for storage).

Once dry, if bud contains more than 15% moisture then it may grow mold, less than 10% and it becomes brittle and powderizes. Peter’s beach-weed was probably right around the 10% moisture mark.

It is fairly standard to buy 1 gram for $10 (the average size of a joint). Bud that is dehydrated to 10% water, leaves 90% of the weight for plant medicine. For every $10 spent, nine dollars go towards cannabinoids and terpenes while you spend $1 for water. If the bud is cured to 15%, then you will spend $8.50 for actual weed, and $1.50 on water.

This becomes increasingly interesting when you calculate how much money you spend yearly just on water inside cannabis. Especially if your consumption is on the order of Peggy Caserta or Snoop Dogg.

As a seller, it is clear that well-hydrated bud will get you more money by weight. The downside to more water in your weed is that it decreases the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) ratio. A drier plant will boost THC levels. As a consumer a well-cured bud is not only more cost effective, but higher in THC. Consider the cost difference between 10% moisture and 15% moisture.

The more expensive the ganja the more you should be wondering, am I paying for celebrity-priced water instead of weed? Weed water, which most likely is coming out of a hose not an artesian spring or dripping from a pristine glacial iceberg.

How much water is in your bud matters, because cannabis is priced by weight.

So should we all ditch the fancy schmancy packaging and ask for the driest herb in the shop to get the most bang for our buck? It is not quite so simple.

The reason that cannabis gets pampered is because many things can degrade the medicinal properties of the plant. Things that can affect its potency include:

  • Moisture level in the plant (as stated in the example above)
  • Humidity (air in which plant is stored)

  • Exposure to UV light

  • Heat/Cold

  • Friction of Physical grinding

  • Extraction method (if consuming oil/hash or anything other than pure flower)

  • Burning/Cooking Temperature

  • Oxidation- exposure to air

For example:

In 65% air humidity pot may grow mold, below 59% trichomes become brittle. This is similar to the plant’s moisture content, but it is not directly correlated. UV light from the sun causes cannabinoid degradation. Cling Wrap may be cheap and easy storage choice, but not airtight, and sketchy plastic can crush and degrade trichomes.

While there are clearly best “storage” practices, the theory on how moist the bud should be is arbitrary. There is no objective industry standard around moisture content percentages, even if the weight difference can greatly impact the price tag.

In this way cannabis is like wine, the same winery grows a variety of grapes that may yield a very different result after curing. Suppliers acknowledge that there is a lack of clarity around curing cannabis.

Using weight as a price point is misleading, but there is no better system in place right now. Of course we buy apples, bananas and potatoes by weight, but if you paid $10/gram for an apple, you too would think twice about the quantity and worth of the water inside it.

At this investment level, the average apple would cost $75. A crispy apple may very well be worth this price tag, but what if medicinally, there isn’t much difference between eating an apple and drinking a separate cup of water afterwards?

Where does this leave the consumer?

Grow and cure your own cannabis. But if that isn’t possible, take a second look at some of those discount items, because the semi-dry looking bud may not be as bad as you thought, especially if your pocket book is strained. Rehydrating bud is as easy as putting a piece of lettuce, orange peel or carrot in your jar for 20 min with a closed lid.

Photo Courtesy of Herb.co

About the author:

Ellie Ho

Elli Ho

Elli Ho MPH, a late-flowering cannabis convert, is dismantling the 420 stigma. As a researcher/nutritionist, mother and digital nomad, she explores the world, food and consciousness with humor, love and gratitude. See where in the world she is taking her next breath of fresh air @elliAloha or elliho.com

 

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