A map showing world marijuana use and prices indicates that, in Latin America at least, both of these factors are more affected by the availability of the drug than the legal regime governing its use.
The interactive map, published by the Guardian (see static rendition below), shows that Chile and Panama have mainland Latin America’s highest retail marijuana prices, with the drug costing $10 or more per gram. The retail price of marijuana is also higher in Paraguay — South America’s biggest marijuana producer — than in Brazil.
Meanwhile, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico have the region’s lowest prices, at under $1 per gram.
Paraguay is the country with the lowest wholesale price, at $20 per kilo, followed by Colombia, where the wholesale price is $40.3 per kilo. Panama, despite having one of the highest retail prices, has the third lowest wholesale price, at $50 per kilo.
With the exceptions of Guatemala and Brazil, the countries with the cheapest retail marijuana also have the lowest percentage of users, at under 3 percent of residents aged 15 to 64. Use is heaviest in Brazil and Uruguay, with over eight percent of residents using marijuana.
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The map indicates there is little correlation between marijuana prices and rates of use. Both these factors are likely fed instead by the availability of marijuana.
Mexico and Colombia are major marijuana producers. While Mexico is one of the world’s biggest marijuana suppliers though, a significant amount stays in the country. In Colombia, around 70 percent of marijuana produced is destined for the internal consumer market.
Most of the marijuana produced in Paraguay, meanwhile, is pumped into the large consumer markets of neighboring Brazil and Uruguay, which could explain the higher retail price in Paraguay compared to Brazil (perhaps the equivalent of paying higher prices for good coffee in Guatemala, since most of the coffee is exported).
Part of the explanation for Chile’s high prices could be related to increased police seizures. In 2010, the Santiago Times reported a tripling of marijuana prices, following a 107 percent rise in seizures in preceding years.
Legality also appears to have little connection to price or use rates. According to the map, private consumption and cultivation is legal in Chile, yet Chile has some of the region’s highest prices. Brazil and Uruguay have similarly high use rates, but personal use and possession is legal and not capped in Uruguay, while possession of large amounts is punishable in Brazil with up to 15 years in prison.