Why Does Some Weed Cost More? (and 12 Other Common Cannabis FAQs)

Like alcohol, donuts, and Nicolas Cage films, some weed is better than others. But why isn’t always clear.

To better understand the changing quality, potency, availability, and price of weed, we respond to 13 of the most frequently asked questions from Boulder cannabis consumers.

Because you shouldn’t just get high. You should get the best high at the best price.

FAQs About Cannabis Pricing

Send us your cannabis question or call 303-449-9333 (WEED) to get an answer from a Highly Trusted budtender.

1. Why do some strains cost more?

What’s the difference between a bag of Hostess Donettes and a box of Voodoo Doughnuts?

Voodoo Doughnuts are larger, include higher quality ingredients, are produced in smaller batches, and deliver a more flavorful, satisfying experience. It’s why they cost more (and why they’re well worth the price for many consumers).

The same reasoning applies to cannabis. Everything from grow and extraction methods to crop yields, supply and demand, and natural disasters (like wildfires) can directly affect the strains available, the prices of each strain, and the quality you receive as a discerning cannabis consumer.

Now let’s channel our inner Steve Irwin and use the rest of this post to go in for a closer look.

2. How can grow methods affect price?

Growing top tier cannabis is like cooking a 5-star meal. If a chef takes shortcuts or uses cheap ingredients, the customer may end up with a less satisfying meal. In the case of cultivating marijuana, cheap grow ingredients and a lack of commitment to quality could result in a lower potency, less flavorful strain that is lacking the effects you expect as a consumer.

To ensure high quality strains with consistent flavor and effects, we start with only the finest genetics from companies like FreeWorld Genetics. We then use only the freshest and cleanest “ingredients” to grow our flower using sustainable methods. We NEVER use synthetic or non-organic pesticides, and every hand-manicured batch goes through extensive testing.

If a crop doesn’t meet our better-than-industry standards for potency and purity, we won’t sell it to our guests.

This commitment to excellence doesn’t mean we can’t offer low-price shake, popcorn, and Tier 1 strains. But it can help explain why top tier strains cost more.

3. Why can't dispensaries offer free products?

In the state of Colorado, cannabis regulations state that it is illegal to give away free cannabis. There are workarounds that allow for buy-one-get-one style deals, but these won’t apply for every transaction. It’s why you may have to pay a penny or spend a minimum pre-tax amount in order to receive an item advertised as “free”.

4. Why do dispensaries limit discount amounts or the use of loyalty points?

It’s tempting to assume a dispensary is just being stingy when they say you can’t combine loyalty points with discounts, or that they can’t discount an item below a certain point. But oftentimes the dispensary’s hands are tied. Due to state regulations, shops aren’t allowed to take the price below wholesale cost. And no matter how much your budtender wants to hook you up, it isn’t always possible.

If you have questions about a discount – or if you’re disappointed the price can’t go lower – speak with a budtender or store manager and politely ask them to explain. In many cases there’s a clear reason for the limit. And they’re more likely to find a workaround for a courteous customer than one who’s shouting or cursing.

5. Why do dispensaries sometimes increase prices on flower, shake, and popcorn bud?

We work hard to offset increased costs and other changes in the marketplace to keep our prices consistent. But sometimes we have to make the choice between 1) lowering our quality to keep the same price or 2) slightly raising a product’s price to keep (or improve) the quality.

For us, that’s an easy choice. Because lower quality cannabis means a less satisfying experience. And you should always be able to trust that you’re getting the best from your dispensary: consistent, clean-grown, potent, and flavorful bud.

As we always say, “If we wouldn’t give it to our own families, we won’t sell it to our customers.” So while we realize that an increase in price can be upsetting, we only do so to ensure the best for our guests (not to increase our margins).

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FAQs About Cannabis Availability

6. Why are some strains higher yield than others?

At the risk of oversimplifying, imagine you grow tomatoes at home. Large tomatoes require additional resources and need more room to grow. Cherry tomatoes, on the other hand, can thrive with less sun and space. If you want a larger quantity of tomatoes, you might have to limit the space or resources your plants get, which can affect their size and flavor when it’s time to harvest.

Just like tomatoes, some cannabis strains are more resource intensive. And higher quality, higher potency strains often grow in smaller batches. So growers are left with a choice: deliver higher quality or larger quantities.

At Karing Kind, our priority is on providing Boulder with the highest quality cannabis. And while we want all of our guests to have a chance at our newest batch of Blue Dream or Jack Herer, we sometimes have to limit a crop in order to ensure every ounce is as potent and flavorful as the last.

7. Can supply chain issues affect availability of your favorite products and strains?

Absolutely. If certain products, resources or equipment take longer to procure – whether due to shipping delays, limited inventory, state regulations, or a global pandemic – it can affect availability for dispensaries and consumers.

For example, in early 2021 changes to testing procedures on pre-rolls delayed shipments, reduced available inventory, and left many Colorado dispensaries with few or no joints to sell. On the flip side, many brands and strains experience faster-than-expected upticks in sales or a large one-time order from an unexpected source, leaving them with too little inventory to keep up with demand. This can result in some dispensaries refilling their shelves in just 2 days while others have to wait 2 weeks or longer.

Blue Healer Karing Kind Grow

8. Why don't recreational dispensaries carry the same strains year round?

There are many reasons a dispensary rotates strains throughout the year.

Sometimes, a crop doesn’t grow with the potency or effects we expect as a cannabis cultivator. And rather than sell lower quality bud just because it has a recognizable name, we may rotate to a new strain that can deliver the more satisfying experience and flavor our discerning customers have come to expect.

Cannabis genetics are also always changing. We strive to offer the best for our customers, and keeping the same rotation year round wouldn’t leave room for new and hard-to-find strains like Pinky’s Advice and Cereal Milk. Not to mention some strains simply aren’t available in their original form anymore due to hybridization and other factors. If a mother plant dies, it could take months before that strain returns (and even then it may not be the exact same as the one you had been enjoying).

While we reserve space in our grow for many of the most popular strains, we’re also constantly expanding our selection to ensure our guests can find the latest and greatest, from award-winners to highly sought-after genetics you won’t find elsewhere in Colorado.

This variability in strains is why we prioritize customer service at our North Boulder dispensary. We know how fast the industry (and our own inventory) can change. And whether you are looking for something new or you just want a close replacement for a strain that’s no longer available, our award-winning budtenders can help you find the right bud at the right price.

If a brand sells well, dispensaries should always have extra inventory… right? While this is a great idea in theory – and one every dispensary tries to adhere to – the cannabis industry and it’s heavy regulations haven’t made inventory management easy.

Rapid fluctuations in demand, limited availability from manufacturers, changing delivery dates, and strict regulations about how products are stored and displayed at a dispensary can all affect what products are available (and in what quantities) for the consumer.

Seasonality can also affect edibles in the same way it would affect an outdoor cannabis grow. Some ingredients simply aren’t available year round – at least not in the same quantities or at the same quality. 

We work hard to keep our most popular edibles in stock year round, and you aren’t likely to see our Wyld or Wana or Coda shelves empty. But just like pizza delivery can take longer during the Super Bowl, the time it takes for a vendor to deliver can vary greatly due to circumstances outside of our control. Follow us on Twitter to catch all the latest inventory updates.

10. Why would a dispensary stop carrying your favorite brand?

Spite. Just kidding.

Think of a dispensary like a liquor store. No matter how large the wine selection might be, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll find your favorite vintage. This is true for several equally plausible reasons.

First, limited shelf space could mean there isn’t enough room for all the edibles or extracts a dispensary wants to carry. Similarly, reduced availability from a vendor could force the dispensary to shift to a new brand of comparable price and quality to ensure their guests have enough of a selection in the meantime. Rest assured our expert purchasers and product researchers ensure new vendors and products are up to our high standards.

We know how upsetting it can be to lose access to a brand you’ve grown to love – especially if nothing else has lived up to your expectations. It’s why we bring in the best budtenders in the state to support our guests. Because we can’t guarantee we’ll always have the same selection, but we can guarantee that if we ever stop carrying your favorite, we’ll work tirelessly to help you find a new favorite.

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FAQs About Cannabis Quality

11. Why does the same strain sometimes have different potencies?

Cannabis edibles are like drinking Florida’s Natural orange juice – they’re produced in high quantities using the same process for every batch, ensuring greater consistency in quality, flavor, and potency. And because they are rarely strain-specific, they can account for changing availability of live flower strains.

But cannabis flower and extracts are more like your favorite wine. You know you’re getting consistent quality, but you may notice small differences from one year or vintage to the next. Just like changing weather may subtly affect the flavor profile of a bottle of wine, two flowers from the same cannabis grow may have minor differences in potency or flavor.

12. What's the difference between premium strains, popcorn bud, and shake weed?

Premium strains are typically our highest potency, most flavorful, and hard to find flower, hand-manicured to avoid as many stems and sun leaves as possible. They carry exclusive genetics, offer powerful flavor and aroma, and deliver a potent and satisfying experience with bag appeal to make Willie Nelson jealous.

Our Tier 3 strains are one step away from premium. They are potent and flavorful, but we’re able to offer them at a slightly better price and the occasional deep discount. Tier 1 and 2 strains can be just as sought after as Tier 3, but they were less resource intensive to grow (though still grown with the same care and quality) and so we’re able to offer them at better rates.

Popcorn bud doesn’t mean lower quality flower. You can get the same potency and flavor, but the nugs – and the strain selection – are smaller. This lack of larger nugs (and popcorn bud being packaged in larger half-ounce sizes) allows us to sell it at a cheaper price. It’s like buying a 24 pack of beer instead of a 6 pack: you’re paying less per ounce without losing out on flavor or effects.

Shake weed represents a fairly large step down in quality for many consumers (accompanied by a huge drop in price). You’re not getting a less flavorful or potent strain – in fact, shake weed can sometimes be even stronger than the plant it originates from as the trichomes “shake” off. But shake weed doesn’t go through the same hand-manicured process as our other bud, and you will find more stems or leaves.

13. How does a dispensary determine what strains are Tier 1 vs Tier 3 vs premium?

It’s tempting to believe weed prices are chosen to maximize profit. But the truth is that some strains simply produce less while costing more to grow, and dispensaries like Karing Kind don’t often see higher profit margins on more expensive strains.

At Karing Kind, our Tier 1 strains are grown with the same care and attention to detail as our Tier 3 and premium bud. But they typically cost less to grow because they produce higher yields per crop. Put another way, we can charge less and still cover our costs.

Likewise, our Tier 3 and premium strains typically carry a higher price tag because they cost more to grow while producing smaller batches. If we charge too little, we’ll lose money and we eventually won’t be able to provide rare, hard-to-find, and highly potent strains for our guests.

Of course we don’t want any guests to miss out on our top tier strains, which is why we offer happy hour specials, daily deals, and our discounted strain of the week every week. Speaking of, you can browse our full menu of strains, shake, popcorn, edibles, and extracts and pre-order online for fast pickup in store.