Researchers have found that over a third of people think legal cannabis is safer and of higher quality than that available on the black market, however consumers tend to think that it is also more expensive. .
For the study, the researchers analyzed data collected from online surveys of 5,330 people aged 16-65. All respondents lived in six states in which medical and recreational cannabis programs have been established: Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State. They were equally male and female, with 13.2% daily marijuana users, 33.6% nonusers, and 39.7% using the substance less than once per month.
In the end, the researchers found that 37.6% of people believe legal cannabis is of better quality than its illegal counterpart, with 40.3% thinking it's safer to use, and 59.2% finding it more convenient to buy. Meanwhile, just under a quarter of respondents said that legal cannabis's quality is neither better nor worse than that of illegal cannabis. Almost three times as many respondents (1,690 to 586), however, believed legal cannabis to be more pricy than illegal varieties.
"Legal cannabis products were perceived as more expensive than illegal products, particularly among frequent cannabis users. The prevalence of this belief suggests that price may in fact be a barrier to transitioning to the legal market," write the researchers.
They also noticed that perceptions on legal cannabis were more positive as cannabis programs 'matured', likely as prices decreased as competition between businesses increased and supply lines improved. An example of this is that in Nevada, where recreational dispensaries opened in 2017, 41.1% of people believed that legal cannabis products were more expensive than illegal varieties, whereas, in Colorado, where the same was legal in 2012, the figure stood at 26.4%.
All in all, the researchers say that the impact of price on perception means that consumers are likely aware of price differentials and that efforts to reduce prices of legal products by increasing competition are justified.