The September issue of Wired has a map of marijuana prices in the US (excluding Alaska and Hawaii, where people apparently don't smoke weed.) It's fascinating to see the price differences, but there are interesting economic points as well.
The map was put together by FloatingSheep, a group that maps and analyses location-specific data. In this case, it took data from the Price of Weed website, which crowd-sources marijuana prices. As Floating Sheep explains, using that data it was pretty easy to create a weed price map:
After cleaning the data to get rid of the outliers, we created a continuous surface using a statistical interpolation technique known as kriging to identify the average variance among price differences through a spherical semivariogram model. To obtain a price for each location show in the map above, an interpolated value was estimated as a weighted average of prices from its twelve neighbouring points.
Gah! Wait, did I say easy? I meant complicated. But either way, the results are kind of amazing. And looking closely, you can actually learn something from them.
OK, yes, if you live in the Dakotas, you are paying too much for pot. Let's establish that first of all. But that's not what you can learn. What you can learn is that harsh drug laws have little influence on price or availability.
Look at Kentucky, for example. Kentucky's pot laws are not at all kind, bra. Nor are Tennessee's, mang. And yet both have price comparability to northern California where marijuana is more or less mandatory. (Or at least, everyone in San Francisco seems very high to me.) Likewise, it's less expensive in Texas and Florida. What do all of those spots have in common? Either a lot of marijuana is grown or imported there.
Or check out Minnesota, man. Check it out! Minnesota has decriminalised marijuana. If you have less than an ounce and a half, you just pay a small fine and do no time. And yet the price of marijuana there is very high. I expect that's because it's far from any growing or import regions, and because Prince and Bob Mould are snapping up whatever available supply there is.
Simply put, no matter what kind of legal codes you pass, the laws of supply and demand will supersede them. (Sorry, Minnesota.) [FloatingSheep]