Somewhere, in some deep, dank corner of the internet, word leaked about the best marijuana strain in the world: Oracle. This strain has a whopping 45% THC, which for scale, is almost double the 20% found in all other high-THC strains. Not only is it unbelievably strong, it has an unbelievably short life cycle, about 45 days, or half that of any other Cannabis strain on the face of the earth.
As word traveled, demand surged underground. Today, seeds being sold through online exchanges still go for up to $200 each; a single Oracle clone could fetch up to $1,000.
But, according to a little-publicized finding by Los Angeles-based laboratory The Werc Shop, Oracle, the most expensive marijuana strain in the world, is genetically identical to AC/DC, a strain that is readily available in Southern California dispensaries and retails for less than $10 a gram of dried flowers.
While the price inflation of the Oracle strain is a byproduct of an underground prohibition economy, generating “scarcity” to inflate prices is not exclusive to the marijuana industry. Wherever there is a hole in regulation of the “legitimate” market, capitalism dictates that companies rise to slip through it in order to increase profits. Ever heard of blood diamonds? They are legal to buy in any strip-mall jeweler in America although the diamond industry is rife with international political and social scandal.
Diamonds are big business because the industry has created artificial “scarcity.” DeBeers, the largest diamond manufacturer in the world, hoards diamonds in order to keep the market price high. Although, in reality, diamonds are far from scarce, nor do they have any practical or functional purpose to drive necessity. Yet, just the illusion that there is not enough to go around creates high demand.
The irony of the Oracle (aka AC/DC) saga is that the strain, which probably does not contain 45% THC nor does it probably not grow at the biologically confounding rate of 2:1, is that it is a high-cannabidiol (CBD) strain. High-CBD strains are those that aren’t known for their psychological effects so much as their healing abilities for a wide variety of illnesses ranging from childhood epilepsy and autism to Alzheimer’s, cancer and gastrointestinal disorders.
The marijuana industry faces a unique problem, one that has been the cause of heated conflict since the first full-legalization initiative, Proposition 19 in California, hit the ballot in 2010. When we legalize the recreational use of marijuana, how do we preserve the integrity of healing built into the medical marijuana models that already exist?
The Oracle story is one that frightens those who exclusively use marijuana to treat medical conditions. This is where we should again look at the first major prohibition to find the answer. In Frankfort, Kentucky, the Buffalo Trace Bourbon Distillery proudly displays framed medicinal-bourbon prescriptions, a now laughable relic of American alcohol prohibition. Buffalo Trace was the only distillery that did not shut down in Kentucky during prohibition, in order to provide “medicinal bourbon”, of course.
Today, alcohol is found in small quantities in a variety of over-the-counter drug prescriptions such as mouth wash and cough syrup. But unless you are a desperate teenager, you probably go straight for actual booze when you want to drink. The price of alcohol varies from very cheap to very expensive, explicitly based on the purpose of consumption. Fine wines fetch thousands while cough syrup tops off at a couple dollars.
So, don’t be so afraid of legalization. While alcohol still is regulated differently state-to-state, the kind you need for medicine is never scarce, and never worth the price of the most expensive strain in the world.