Marijuana Markets

Inferences from Reports by the Household Population

Published in: Journal of Drug Issues, v. 36, no. 1, Winter 2006, p. 173-200

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2006

by Jonathan P. Caulkins, Rosalie Liccardo Pacula

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Generally more is known about drug use and demand than about markets and supply, in large part because population survey data are available while market data are not. Although the household population represents a relatively small proportion of users of hard drugs, it represents a large proportion of the population using marijuana and participating in marijuana markets. This paper provides a description of marijuana market and acquisition patterns as reported by participants in the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. The authors find that most respondents obtain marijuana indoors (87%), from a friend or relative (89%), and for free (58%). Retail marijuana distribution appears to be embedded in social networks rather than being dominated by professional sellers. Despite these contrasts with stereotypical street markets for cocaine and heroin, there are also similarities, such as evidence of quantity discounts and a minority of users accounting for the majority of purchases. The authors estimate that there are on the order of 400 million retail marijuana purchases in the U.S. each year and that the average purchase size is small, about six or seven joints.

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