Why is there so much bush weed in Jamaica?

Why so much "bush weed"? How much have we really thought about it?

Here's the thing, you ever find that every ganjaman has the "best"? The highest high grade! Right. Great.

It's not so great when you feel like you don't know if you're getting low quality ganja or not. By looking at the economic forces at play here, we hope to tackle this phenomenon by providing more information to potential consumers. We do this by first looking at a principle described as the "Market for Lemons". This will help us to better understand why there's an overabundance of ganja described as low quality. For people who just want a visual quality guide to selecting cannabis, Leafly has a pretty good post on it in their Cannabis 101 category.

Here's the thing, you ever find that every ganjaman has the "best"? The highest high grade! Right. Great.

Lemons vs. Peaches.

For this example, let's refer to bush weed as "lemons", and higher quality herb as "peaches". In fact for me, I prefer to think of "limes" vs "mangoes" instead of lemons vs peaches for the simple fact that these fruits are closer to me.

  • Low quality herb = lime
  • High quality herb = mango

Information Asymetry

Before 1970, economists were not really looking at the role of information in their studies. In a research paper put forth by George Akerlof(an economist and professor at the University of California, Berkeley) we begin to observe the impact of "information asymmetry" in the marketplace.

Present day government level decisions that impact the labor market need to be revised based on the negative effects of information asymmetry. For example recently, Washington State started banning firms from checking job applicants’ credit scores in an effort to improve opportunities for poor, black and young persons. This has, however, had very adverse consequences on these populations despite initially celebrating this new law as a step towards equality. Anyway, back to the example at hand.
Suppose buyers in the ganja market value good ganja—“mangos”—at $1,000(and sellers at slightly less). Some low quality herb—a “lime”—is worth only $500 to buyers (and, again, slightly less to sellers). If buyers can tell limes and mangos apart, trade in both will flourish. In reality, buyers might struggle to tell the difference: mediocre herb can look decent, maybe even have some orange hairs, some herb is sprayed with dangerous pesticides, it may emit a fantastic aroma but have minimal effects.

If buyers can tell limes and mangos apart, trade in both will flourish.

To account for the risk that the herb is a lime, buyers cut their offers. They might be willing to pay, say, $750 for herb they perceive as having an even chance of being a lime or a mango. But dealers who know for sure they have a mango will reject such an offer. As a result, the buyers face “adverse selection”: the only sellers who will be prepared to accept $750 will be those who know they are offloading a lime.

Smart buyers can foresee this problem. Knowing they will only ever be sold a lime, they offer only $500. Sellers of limes end up with the same price as they would have done were there no ambiguity. But mangos stay in storage. This is a tragedy: there are buyers who would happily pay the asking-price for a mango, if only they could be sure of the herb’s quality. This “information asymmetry” between buyers and sellers kills the market.

At Ganjagram, we are always trying to better understand the needs of potential customers. When interviewing medical cannabis patients from overseas, we often ask their honest opinion on Jamaican ganja. Many say that medical quality cannabis in the US is stronger in terms of THC potency than what is typically found in Jamaica(currently). Our field tests verify this, however average potency(eg. recorded at cup and competitions) has been steadily increasing since 2015. Of course, THC is just one of the many cannabinoids contained in ganja and we can go on and on about what Jamaica's strengths are when it comes to medical cannabis but I hope this blog post helps to shed some light on why so many seem to come to Jamaica and find an experience with "bush weed".

In a future blog post we explore the hidden history of "bush weed" and some possible opportunities in this space that are not to be overlooked. Follow us on twitter to share your comments.

Reference: Secrets and Agents, The Economist, Jul 23rd 2016