How Much Is a Pack of Joints Likely to Cost?


Kent Kanouse/Flickr

At Fast Company, writer Thor Benson calculates how much a pack of joints—or marijuana cigarettes, if you prefer—would be likely to cost should a major cigarette company decide to get in on the game soon. As of now, rumors that Marlboro is going to pot (I'm sorry) are just that: rumors. But as the weed business begins booming legally in more states, "don't be surprised to see big tobacco turn into big marijuana," writes Benson. Until then, pricing a pack of joints is purely a thought exercise. But who hasn't wondered what a 20-pack of Camel Greens might cost? 

In June of 2013, a company named BOTEC speculated that the production cost of marijuana ranges from $2 to $3 per gram, which "implies a price to retailers of $6.25, which is broadly consistent with current access points paying about $5 per gram." The average Marlboro cigarette has just under one gram of tobacco in each of the 20 cigarettes contained in a pack. So at the low end of things, you're looking at a production cost of nearly $40 per pack of Mary Janes.

… But production cost also does not factor in what the company must charge to make a profit. The Economics of Smoking, written in 1992, declared that production costs are often half of what cigarette companies wholesale their product for, so what costs a large corporation $40 per pack could result in a $70 or $80 retail price.

Bummer. But Benson is optimistic that economies of scale could bring the cost down. Another price-lowering solution might be for companies to mix tobacco with marijuana.

If marijuana cigarettes were to be mixed with tobacco, at a 50-50 ratio, it would bring the cost down significantly. Many tobacco farmers will wholesale a pound of their product for less than $2. With a 50-50 ratio of marijuana to tobacco, the cost of producing a pack of 20 pre-rolled joints could be brought down to just a little more than $20—so a $40 pack at the store.

But adding in tobacco would likely bring on more state sin taxing, so perhaps not a terribly cost-saving measure for consumers. Plus we'd have to endure a lot of concern over how half-marijuana and half-tobacco cigarettes would normalize marijuana, or re-normalize tobacco, or something. Heaven help us should anyone make one cherry flavored.  

Of course, with the kids all going e-cigarettes and vaporizers these days, perhaps the more savvy route for businesses would be selling e-joints. Electronic cigarettes are "now regularly used as a way to consume marijuana," according to Benson. (I am marginally ashamed that I didn't know this.) There's apparently a booming underground and legal market in THC oil e-cigs already. 

Marlboro's parent company, Altria, recently acquired e-cig manufacturer Green Smoke, a move which Quartz writer John McDuling thinks signifies its interest in the marijuana business. One e-cigarette manufacturer told McDuling that use of the products for smoking pot is "an open secret," and that "all the big tobacco companies" are looking into marijuana vaping technology. If you'd like to learn more about the technology yourself, meet John: 

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  1. Was the picture of Epi necessary?

  2. Another price-lowering solution might be for companies to mix tobacco with marijuana.

    Oh, FFS!

    1. I once knew (so, so, very long ago) this very hot French exchange student who would do that, so she could smoke it openly.

      1. I understand that, JW.

        But now it’s “legal” and tobacco is vilified.

        1. Ironically enough, she lived in Colorado at the time.

      2. That’s a big thing with Europeans, though I imagine that is becoming less universal. But pretty much everyone mixes with tobacco there (or did last time I spent any time in Europe).

  3. First, who smokes an entire cigarette’s worth of weed in even a full day of non-stop smoking?

    Second, if you can grow weed openly in sunshine, a few square miles at a time, the price will drop to a tiny fraction of what it costs now.

    1. First, who smokes an entire cigarette’s worth of weed in even a full day of non-stop smoking?

      Nobody! That would be insane!

      1. Relatively heavy smokers, pretty easily?

        The real issue with the “packs of joints the size of cigarettes” model is that by joint standards a cigarette is quite large for single-smoker use.

        An “average” smoker of marijuana is more likely to smoke the equivalent of one or two smaller joints in a day, and might well have no desire at all to buy either joints as such, or 20 packs of cigarette-sized ones.

    2. First, who smokes an entire cigarette’s worth of weed in even a full day of non-stop smoking?

      You’re kidding, right?

      1. Maybe he went to Brigham Young?

      2. Yeah I hope so or Epi and I are beyond redemption in some not so open minds around here.

        1. Don’t act like y’all’s club is that exclusive.

    3. I know a number of people who smoke more than that. But it is true that most people aren’t smoking 1 gram joints. You can get 2 or 3 decent joints from a gram.

  4. I know a thing or two about a thing or two about this stuff.

    I turned the video off after 15 seconds. It’s just easier to by a vaporizer.

  5. Ok, why the hell would the cost be that high? Isn’t Marijuana basically a weed which will grow pretty much anywhere even on otherwise non arable soil? What possible reason could there be for it’s production cost being higher than the production cost of Tobacco?

    1. All those additives that make them more addictive, and sweet flavors to make them attractive to children, cost money.

      1. Monocle drops dramatically…

    2. It’s so high because he’s assuming a giant amount of weed per joint. Who rolls 1 gram joints? If I bought a gram on the black market it would be about $20, obviously the price would go down for volume but, here he’s assuming that a pack of joints is 20 grams for $70-80. Let’s read that again $70 for 20 grams. That’s a HUGE price drop from the black market.

      1. This is assuming it’s not garbage weed. Obviously.

      2. Yeah 1g for a joint sounded off to me.

        1. For some reason they just assume that it should be the same size as a cigarette.

    3. Cannabis is a weed which will grow pretty much anywhere. Marijuana of market quality is a pretty labor intensive crop.

  6. In England, in the ’80s, they would mix hash with tobacco in a roll your own cigarette. It was pretty disgusting.

    1. I think the tobacco mixing is often geographical. Lots of Canadians do it. We picked it up from them.

      1. Europeans too. The last couple I met were in a bit of culture shock seeing people smoke it straight in large quantities.

        1. I always forget myself, when I’m visiting my brother or something, that other Americans don’t do it. But I’d say it’s quite different from smoking blunts. Just having the wrap be tobacco isn’t the same. (re below)

      2. Blunts are pretty much the American version of mixing tobacco and cannabis.

    2. It’s the only way I smoke, but I don’t like smoking very much and I already smoke tobacco. It’s a good way to make the the small amount I buy per year last a while.

    3. In the 1930s in Switzerland, Daddy and his friends dipped tobacco cigs in hash oil.

  7. Tobacco is a fairly tough crop to grow and hell on soil. Wouldn’t large-scale Marijuana farming be considerably cheaper?

    1. That is a really good point. Also, you have to dry tobacco out in barns. You couldn’t run a cigarette manufacturing operation out of your basement or some isolated plot of national Forrest the way marijuana growers can.

      Marijuana is basically a weed and can grow virtually anywhere. On top of that, people don’t need as much of it as they do tobacco. No one short of Tommy Chong ever had a two pack a day joint habit.

      1. Two things. You need to dry out weed. Second, after it’s dry, it’s extremely light. If the article is assuming decent weed, then it’s about a 50% price drop from the black market at that volume. If he’s using figures for what you are describing, weed grown outside with little care or supervision then yes it’s wildly expensive.

        1. Like any other product, not all weed is the same. Some is better, a lot better in some cases, than other weed.

          There are a million ways the government could fuck this up. Your point brings up another way. The government could easily mandate that legal weed have a low THC content because we don’t want our kids accidentally ingesting the evil hydroponic stuff those evil dope users smoke. This would of course just create a black market for the good stuff and leave us with all of the same problems we have today.

          1. I don’t disagree. I think in the back of every pol’s mind they want to have it both ways so they can go whichever way the voters want.

            All I’m trying to point out is that visually even very large plants SEEM to yield a lot however, once dried, weed does not weight that much. In perspective of a semi regular smoker an 3/4 of an ounce of weed it like 1 or 2 month supply and that if you’re getting high with other people.

            1. Contrast that 3/4 of an ouch to the entire cartons of cigarettes smokers buy often every week. Weed is a lot different.

        2. You need to dry out weed


          1. I’m assuming he means cure.

        3. And you don’t just dry it; I’m led to believe it’s typically heat-cured.

          And it has to be processed, which I hear (from hearing growers talk about it) is quite labor intensive.

          “You can grow it anywhere!” doesn’t matter much; the expense isn’t in the growing, it’s in the labor of maintenance and processing.

          Tobacco farms don’t need to sex-separate plants, do they?

          And nobody de-seeds tobacco, because it’s not relevant to leaves, but nobody wants seeds in their marijuana.

          That said, 3.5 grams in 1/8 oz * $8/g [to allow for markup and profit] is still under $30 for an 1/8 ounce.

          That’s lower than current black market prices, at least around here.

          So… the only really unreasonable thing in the analysis is the idea of “full-gram joints” as the normal unit of sale, in 20 packs.

  8. Read this post in conjunction with the posts on cigarette smuggling and you quickly realize what a empty victory “marijuana legalization” is actually going to be.

    Hint, regulating and taxing the shit out of something such that it will still pay to buy it off the black market is really “legalizing it”.

    1. is NOT “really legalizing it”.

      1. Islands of freedom in a sea of regulation.

      2. Well, in a few years kids might into Farmer John’s 50-acre legal MJ field to snip a few leaves. Until the Feds mandate 30-foot electric fences around the fields.

        1. And give Farmer John a 30 year minimum mandatory stay in a federal penitentiary for failing to properly secure his marijuana crop.

          I guess I am just cynical. But I really think the country is so far gone and governing class so stupid and insane, they can’t legalizing anything anymore even if they want to.

    2. This.

      “Baby steps”, eh, John?

      1. Sure. But these steps seem to lead off of a cliff.

        1. But it’s a *fiscal* cliff!

  9. Electronic cigarettes are “now regularly used as a way to consume marijuana,” according to Benson. (I am marginally ashamed that I didn’t know this.) There’s apparently a booming underground and legal market in THC oil e-cigs already.

    It’s almost like people haven’t had tabletop and handheld vaporizers for this shit for YEARS.

    1. Vaporizers are still very much a minority market, aren’t they?

      eCigs might be the thing that makes it actually popular in the broad sense.

  10. Historian Smoker: “Back in my day, a dime bag used to cost a dime. Do you know how much condoms used to cost?”

    Thurgood: “How much?”

    HS: “I don’t know. We never used ’em!”

    1. One of my favorite moments of my teenage years was when my mom discovered a dime bag of my little bro’s. She proceeded to show it to all our adult family members who would come over for the next few weeks, making fun of lil bro for how little weed you get for a dime these days.

      1. Yes, but the *potency* is so much greater.

        At least that’s what the DEA, et al. say, and they’d never lie about a thing like that, right?

        1. Even if it were true, what difference does it make? Whiskey is ten times more potent than most beers and five times more than many wines. That just means people drink shots of whiskey and six packs of beer. So if weed is more “potent” people smoke less of it before they get so baked they don’t care or are unable to smoke any more of it.

          Saying “but it is more potent” sounds so clever when it is in fact so stupid.

          1. Really, dinky dime bags would probably be a better explained by inflation.
            Economics for Stoners
            “Back in the day, $10 would buy this
            much weed.”
            “But because of inflation, today’s $10 only buys this much.”

            1. And there being a black market explains it as well. If I am a dealer, it is in my interest to make more potent weed since doing so lowers the bulk of what I have to smuggle.

  11. which is broadly consistent with current access points paying about $5 per gram for garbage.

    1. I read that as being about wholesale. With the price point for grams of potent strains hovering between $10 and $20 in Colorado recreational shops*, $5 wholesale seems reasonable.

      *And that’s after it’s been taxed twice.

  12. I personally think tobacco companies can grow marijuana for less than $2-$3/gram. These are companies that have spent literally centuries trying to grow plants as efficiently/cheaply as possible with massive budgets devoted to growing them even more efficiently. I do not think you can compare the resources, say, RJR Reynolds can bring to bear compared to your mom-and-pop “industrial” operations struggling to even find banks willing to hold their money.

    1. Of course, like their tobacco, RJR will probably market crap marijuana. Hopefully, the marijuana market will be similar to the alcohol industry — a few big low-quality producers but a lot of easy-to-find high-quality producers — than the tobacco industry (nearly completely dominated by crap).

  13. In Amsterdam a large joint goes for 5-7 euros (or did on my last visit). Joints will be sold individually or in small numbers, not 20-packs. My guess is $4-5 per joint.

    Weed in the 70-80’s gave a better buzz. More color-sensitive and visual. These days it’s more numbing. Maybe it’s my age, though.

    1. Or different strains (or breeds; the indica vs. the sativa).

      There’s no such thing as “generic weed”, after all.

    2. stop smoking indica

  14. The cost of production would be the same as that of tobacco in the long run. You grow a plant, you dry it, blend it up, and roll it, then put it in a package.

    It would end up the same as a pack of tobacco cigs.

    Taxes are a whole other story. I can’t see the government allowing the price to drop like that, so it would be made up in taxes.

  15. If a pack of joints really winds up being about 20grams worth, that’s actually quite a bit of weed.

    Roughly 15 grams equals half an ounce, which in Florida would cost probably close to $200 unless you were talking about Mexican ditch weed or something.

    Or so a friend of mine told me once…I don’t know, I would never ever do drugs or anything.

  16. Back in the day.. an ounce cost about $40. Really good or unique bud maybe $50-60. That’s less than $1.50/gm and includes everyone’s markup at a time when every part of the channel was illegal. What has changed other than the cost of transportation?

    In a legal growing and distribution environment pot should (ignoring idiotic taxes) cost no more than buying an orange or head of lettuce.

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