East Coast vs. West Coast Cannabis

There hasn’t been a rivalry that pitted East Coast against West since the hip hop wars of the 1990s. But when it comes to cannabis, it’s easy to get a little territorial.

Since federal laws prevent cannabis from being sold or transported across state lines, the U.S. market is geographically specific. That means if it’s grown in Massachusetts, it’s sold in Massachusetts. It also means the cannabis markets on both coasts have developed much differently over the years.

Legal Differences

Much of the difference has to do with states’ legal climates. In the 1970s, California and Oregon were among the first states to decriminalize cannabis. Along with Washington, these states legalized medical cannabis use in the mid-1990s. West Coast states were also the first to legalize recreational pot use. Washington and Oregon did it in 2012. California followed in 2016. Because the cannabis industry has had decades to grow and expand in the West, you’ll find more well-established, big brands there.

The legal climate on the East Coast took much longer to develop. Maine legalized medical cannabis in 1996, but it took until well after the year 2000 for other East Coast states to follow suit. Massachusetts and Maine were the first to approve recreational use in 2016. Others, including Vermont, New York and Connecticut followed in 2020 and 2021. Since legalized cannabis hasn’t been around as long in the East, dispensaries tend to be smaller, craft operations.

Growing Climate

The coasts’ growing climates are much different. California and parts of the Pacific Northwest offer prime growing conditions. In fact, the Emerald Triangle, a three-county region in Northern California, produces more cannabis than anywhere else in the world. Growing conditions on the East Coast are much different with colder winters and shorter growing seasons. To get around the environmental challenges, many growers have indoor operations. But that means they can’t grow as much or as quickly.

Market Size

Out West, the cannabis market is massive. Since dispensaries have existed in California and Colorado for nearly a decade, their markets have matured to fit the consumer demand. Many dispensaries have already succeeded, failed, and evolved over that timeframe. On the East Coast, there are many new dispensaries trying to find their footing, and without time to level the playing field, the market is still being formed.

However, one dispensary seems to have found the key to east coast cannabis. Silver Therapeutics is spanning across two east coast states with more dispensaries on the way.

Buyer Types

Because there’s more inventory available on the West Coast, the prices are lower by about 20 percent. It’s simply an effect of supply and demand. Since the recreational market has only recently opened in the East, you’ll also find newbie users. The West Coast demographic is definitely more mature, and buyers tend to know exactly what they want.

In the East, buyers may need more guidance to select the right product. Since pot has traditionally been illegal, these buyers may need more guidance and reassurance about state-specific laws. Many will opt to ease into cannabis with edibles, drops or oils before moving to an inhaled version.