When is a dime bag not a dime bag? Well, it could be when that’s not the local currency. Although other times the cost of a gram may set you back up to three times that ten-spot. It’s not only a matter of supply and demand. Risk figures prominently in the equation.
The cities where cannabis costs the most have one major thing in common: Recreational and medicinal use is against the law and the penalties, even for possessing a minor amount, can be severe, even by South Dakota standards.
Seedo, a company that makes a device allowing users to grow cannabis plants at home, recently released a report that shows where the cost of a gram could set you back considerably more than ten bucks. They compiled the list through crowdsourcing and cross-referencing it with the World Drug Report 2017.
5. Bangkok, Thailand
Price per gram: $24.81
Even though it’s the namesake—if perhaps not exactly the originator—of the Thai stick, cannabis can net heavy penalties for users and growers. Possession of what is locally called ganja — the name comes from an Indian word, it’s not a Jamaican influence — can result in up to five years in prison and a fine. Penalties for growers can reach 15 years and a fine.
Related Story: Everything You Need To Know About Traveling With Marijuana
That’s not to say it’s necessarily hard to find. Despite its legal status, it is sold openly in bars and restaurants in areas in the country. Tourists have served jail time. A common scam is for a bartender to sell to tourists, then turn the traveler into someone who may or may not be a cop who then shakes them down for money and confiscates the drugs. The drugs, of course go back to the bartender who runs the scam again.
4. Hong Kong, China
Price per gram: $27.48
Violating Chapter 134 — the Dangerous Drug Ordinance — of the city’s law can result in stiff penalties. Trafficking can get you life. Possession or use can mean up to seven years and a $128,000 fine.
For bowl-is-half-full types, if a tourist is arrested on drug charges, they will not be deported to mainland China, unless the tourist in question is already wanted there, and even then that requires a court order.
Supply and demand may also play a role in the high cost. In December the South China Morning Post reported that police seizures of cannabis, by amount, grew 238 percent in the first 10 months of 2017. This coincided with use by those under 21 reaching 63 percent — a 50 percent hike.
3. Kyoto, Japan
Price per gram: $29.65
Japan is world-renowned for its harsh drug laws — just ask Paul McCartney. Despite a history of cultivation that dates back more than 10,000 years ago, cannabis has been illegal in the country since 1948.
Use and possession can get offenders locked up for up to five years, in addition to a fine. Selling or growing can put you away for up to 10 years and, of course, a fine.
2. Seoul, South Korea
Price per gram: $32.44
Cannabis simply isn’t that popular in South Korea, despite its population. In 2015, of the 11,916 arrests in the entire country for drug crimes, 1,100 were for the herb. Koreans have a history of cultivating hemp for fabrics since 3000 B.C.
Cannabis was made illegal in 1976 — in part because of concerns that use was rising around US military bases. Civil liberties? Not in this case. Police have the authority to stop anyone and test them for drug use. The hair follicle test most commonly used can find THC as far back as three years in some cases. And that is enough to send you to jail. Merryjane.com reports that most Americans arrested for a positive test have spent a few days to a few months incarcerated.
1. Tokyo, Japan
Price per gram: $32.66
As mentioned above, Japanese officials do not mess around with cannabis users. In addition to those penalties, foreigners can be permanently banned from entering the country ever again.
Fortunately (again, bowl-half-full), unlike South Korea police have to ask if it is OK to search you. And there are some places where dealing is known to happen, though they are pretty sketchy.
As if the police and legal system weren’t aligned against users, there’s also the risk that because of societal norms, a citizen might turn you in.
… and in the US
Though none of the cities are in the US, Washington, D.C. was the most expensive American city at $18.08 a gram, ranking at number 11 on the world list. Voters made possession and use legal in the district in 2014. But selling is illegal and police are starting to crack down on those using “trades” to skirt the law.