Find the Best Price on Cannabis in California: Dispensary vs Delivery vs Subscription Box

Find Best Price on Medical Marijuana
By Anthony Pellegrino Updated May 18th
best price on cannabis in California

With hundreds of brick-and-mortar dispensaries and thousands of delivery services, there's no better time to have a medical marijuana card in California. It's no exaggeration to say that there are more options than ever. 

But if you've only recently gotten your MMJ card, you may be feeling overwhelmed by all the choices. How can you find the best price on medical cannabis when you haven’t even finished counting the places you can buy from?

Recouping the Cost of Your Medical Marijuana Card

Now that you have your MMJ card, you're probably eager to start saving on those high taxes that come with recreational sales. However, it's no secret that even without taxes, the price of medical marijuana can be steep. 

For instance, this report from the Minnesota Department of Health found that the average medical marijuana patient spends $316 per month on cannabis. That’s nearly as much as the average recreational consumer spends, even after taxes. This, unfortunately, is not an anomaly. American cannabis shoppers paid $5.8 billion per month on marijuana products in 2020. 

Obtaining a medical marijuana card in the first place also comes at a cost. And while it can cost less than $50 to get an MMJ card in California, patients in some states need to pay up to $200 to receive their med cards.

With many consumers struggling to balance their monthly cannabis budget, what's the best and most frugal way to purchase medicinal cannabis without compromising quality?

Where Can You Find the Best Price on Medical Cannabis?

Every patient may want and need something a little different from their shopping experience. For some, quality customer service and in-person recommendations are essential. For others, convenience is the name of the game. 

Ultimately, what matters most is that your cannabis purchasing works for you and provides what you're looking for. Thankfully, there are different ways to save on the price of medical marijuana, however you prefer to shop.

Dispensary vs. Delivery vs. Subscription Box

Many cannabis consumers enjoy the novelty of in-person shopping: they want to speak with budtenders and see the product before buying. Others prefer the ease and convenience that comes with a delivery service (especially if they’ve already consumed a dose of THC and can't drive). 

And for some cannabis connoisseurs, marijuana subscription boxes offer an almost Christmas-like experience of surprise and delight as a new box of high quality products is delivered to their door every month.

Every method of shopping for cannabis - dispensary or on-demand delivery or monthly subscription box - comes with its own price point (and its own ways to save).  

How Can You Save on Marijuana at a Recreational Cannabis Dispensary?

In California, the average cost of an ounce of high-quality marijuana runs around $250. For patients who need higher and more frequent doses, their total monthly spend can quickly add up when shopping at a recreational dispensary. So how can you cut costs if you have a local recreational dispensary you love?

As a medical marijuana patient you can save on state taxes with every purchase. And some recreational dispensaries offer extra discounts for MMJ card holders. How else can you save on your next purchase?

  • Buy cannabis in large quantities. Many recreational dispensaries offer lower prices when purchasing cannabis at larger volumes. For example, it's common for retailers to offer specials or discounts for half or full ounces. Like shopping at Sam’s Club or Costco, buying in bulk means saving in bulk. 
  • Sign up for the dispensary newsletter. Like many retail businesses, dispensaries typically have regular newsletters full of daily deals, limited-time specials, loyalty rewards, and more.  
  • Buy “shake weed” or “popcorn bud” rather than top-shelf flower. Buying dispensary “shake” or "popcorn" instead of the top-shelf strains is perhaps the easiest way to pay less when visiting the dispensary. This may not be appealing to some customers, however, as the available strains and quality are lower than that of other products. But if you’re willing to settle for a lower quality product (or remove stems and seeds from your purchase), you can save 30-50% on your purchase every visit.

How Can You Save When Shopping at a Medical Marijuana Dispensary?

While it's true that medical cannabis dispensaries are often able to charge less than their recreational counterparts, here are some tips to save even more: 

  • Visit dispensaries in areas with greater concentrations of dispensaries. While this may not be possible for every MMJ patient, dispensaries with more competitors in their area will likely have lower prices than those without. 
  • Pay attention to the dispensary website. Before you visit the dispensary, be sure to look at their website. You'll sometimes find daily, weekly, or monthly deals - or recurring happy hours - that you can take advantage of. 
  • Ask if your dispensary has a loyalty program. Another great way to save is enrolling in your dispensary’s loyalty or rewards program if they have one. Be sure to ask your budtender about any such programs on your next visit. 

How Can You Save Money with a Cannabis Delivery Service?

On-demand cannabis delivery services almost always come with delivery fees, which can be quite pricey depending upon the service. Still, they offer greater convenience for many consumers, and there are ways to save money regardless of the extra delivery fees: 

  • Experiment with different locations or services. Unless you already found a favorite dispensary/delivery service, we recommend trying out different ones to get better prices or deals. Believe it or not, many dispensaries have free delivery options, at least for first-time customers. The more competition grows in your area, the more likely you are to find limited-time deals or new customer discounts to attract new customers. 
  • Buy in bulk. As we mentioned earlier, buying cannabis products in larger quantities can generate significant discounts. Many delivery services also offer free delivery once you reach a certain pre-tax purchase total. So instead of ordering every day or every week, consider buying a month's worth of cannabis at once to take advantage of these bulk discounts.

With that being said, if you're interested in monthly orders to save on cannabis costs, you’re going to love the value and convenience of marijuana subscription boxes.

How Can You Save Money with a Cannabis Subscription Box?

Marijuana subscription boxes are what they sound like: that is, monthly boxes filled with cannabis products. These subscriptions are relatively new and only available in certain areas (like California). However, they bring the same convenience of cannabis delivery services with exclusive product offerings you can't find anywhere else. Best of all, some boxes offer savings up to 40-60% off the retail value of included products. 

It’s easy to see why subscription boxes are the preferred purchase method for many moderate to heavy cannabis users. They offer better average prices than dispensaries or on-demand delivery. Their selection is curated by cannabis experts to match your personal preferences. They’re filled with surprise products and add-ons, bringing back the excitement of cannabis shopping. And all you need to do is pay a monthly fee to receive your box of goodies right to your door. 

Nevertheless, even with these fantastically reduced prices, there are still ways to save even more:

  • Check out different options. While marijuana subscription boxes are still relatively new, there are several options you can try out, each offering slightly different products and prices. Many are curated by cannabis experts and catered to your personal tastes, so you can trust you’re getting high quality products (and a more exclusive box every month). And some, like Nugg Club, have optional add-ons at steep discounts, so you can reorder your favorites. 
  • Take advantage of add-ons. Not all cannabis boxes offer add-ons, but those that do give an easy way to reorder your favorites or try new products at a significantly reduced price. 

Other Ways to Save on Cannabis

save on cannabis

Want to cut your cannabis budget even further? Keep these pro consumer tips in mind: 

  • Make use of more economical smoking methods. For instance, you can start using bongs or pipes more often than joints or blunts. 
  • Visit different dispensaries. Some people may frequent one or two dispensaries and rarely venture out from there. However, this may mean that you're missing out on some discount prices at other locations. The same goes for delivery services. Discounts for first-time customers may not always carry over for long-term buyers. 
  • Be on the hunt for cannabis coupons. Much like grocery stores, dispensaries love coupons and temporary sales, often offering savings up to 50% or more. 
  • Make sure you’re getting your lower tax rate as an MMJ card holder. In California, medical marijuana patients don’t have to pay sales tax (but local taxes and the 15% cannabis excise tax still apply).
  • Cultivate your own cannabis plants. Although it does take a little time, effort, and gardening skills, this can be the cheapest way of securing a consistent supply of low-cost marijuana.
  • Build a rapport with local budtenders. Next time you head to the dispensary, do your best to be cordial. Of course, budtenders can't give you free weed every time you visit, but they're more likely to tell you about special offers or hook you up with an added discount if you’re a friendly, regular customer.

What Else Can You Do With a Medical Marijuana Card (Other Than Save Money)?

Huge savings aren't the only perks that come with a medical marijuana card. 

  • Medical patients in California can purchase and possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana flower (compared to 1 ounce for recreational consumers).
  • Patients under 21 must get a MMJ card to be able to legally use cannabis. 
  • Depending on your county, MMJ patients are allowed to cultivate more cannabis than recreational users.*
  • A number of states with medical marijuana programs accept out-of-state MMJ cards. However, regardless of patient status, it is against the law to cross state lines with marijuana in your possession.
  • MMJ patient status comes with additional legal protections. This doesn't mean your med card is a get-out-of-jail-free card, but being an MMJ patient can help protect you from unwanted run-ins with the law.

*Cultivation limits vary by municipality

How is the Price of Medical and Recreational Marijuana Changing in California (and Across the U.S.)?

Since the legalization of recreational marijuana in California, the price of cannabis has decreased. And it appears as though the price of medical and recreational marijuana will continue to lower (to an extent) as competition increases. For instance, the wholesale price of cannabis has plummeted significantly in California as an increasing number of growers hit the scene. 

While this is great news for price-sensitive consumers, it is unclear if these lowered prices are sustainable. More recently, many cannabis farmers are struggling to turn a profit as wholesale prices continue to decrease. Ultimately, this means that consumers should expect these price reductions to hit a floor relatively soon.

As consumers continue to press for lower prices, many dispensaries and on-demand delivery services are looking for new ways to cut their costs. Unfortunately, as wholesale prices even out, this may mean a decrease in the quality of their product. 

That price volatility - and the impact it will have on product quality - is one of the reasons more and more consumers are trying cannabis subscription boxes. Buying a monthly box keeps costs steady without sacrificing quality. After all, their whole business model is built on providing consistent quality and pricing to their customers. 

At the end of the day, finding the best price on cannabis products (while important) is only one part of the shopping experience. After all, what's the use in finding the lowest price medical marijuana if it doesn’t deliver the flavor, effects, and overall experience you expect?

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