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What Exactly Happens to Unsold Cannabis?

unsold cannabis, marijuana dispensary, track-and-trace standards, Benefits of Unsold Cannabis, CBD oil and THC tinctures

Unsold cannabis doesn’t simply go away. States with recreational and medicinal marijuana impose strict track-and-trace standards for every gram that hits the market, so all unsold cannabis must be managed in accordance with state law. So what exactly happens to all the products that your favorite dispensary is unable to sell? There are several possibilities.

The Price May Be Cut

A price cut is good news for the consumer; it means more bang for your buck. It can be bad news for businesses, though, that slash prices out of necessity when a product is overproduced or proves less popular. This has been a big problem in places like Oregon, where cultivators are producing more than twice the cannabis that can be sold. When supply exceeds demand, the value plummets and businesses are forced to take a loss.

The Product May Be Repurposed 

If a particular strain isn’t selling, the flower may be packed into pre-rolls and sold at a discount. Pre-rolled joints are a popular crowd-pleaser; they’re cheap, easy, convenient to carry, and relatively mess-free. If you find pre-rolls at your local dispensary, you’re often looking at unsold cannabis that has been repurposed.

The Product May Be Sold to Extraction Companies

Speaking of repurposing cannabis, it’s not uncommon for unsold marijuana to be resold to companies that specialize in concentrates (like wax and shatter) and extracts (like CBD oil and THC tinctures). Concentrates and extracts are expensive to produce even without factoring in the cost of cultivation, and they often require enormous amounts of cannabis just to produce small amounts of product. For this reason, companies are often more than happy to bulk-purchase unsold cannabis at a deep discount and use it for their own formulations.

The Product May Be Returned to the Distributor

Product returns have been a major issue in Canada, where businesses are allowed to return unsold inventory en masse to product distributors and manufacturers. This provides some financial protection for the retailer, but it has proven to be a huge hindrance for many distributors. For example, in 2019, the marijuana provider CannTrust lost more than $1 million in returned products from Alberta alone.

The Product May Have to Be Thrown Away

In many cases, cannabis will simply go to waste. When that happens, there are strict legal requirements for its disposal. The product must be mixed with non-cannabis waste and rendered unusable and unrecognizable (often with the help of detergent or bleach). A company like GAIACA, who specializes in cannabis waste disposal, will then weigh the waste and transport it to an authorized landfill or recycling facility, where the discarded cannabis is weighed again and tracked according to state law.

The Benefits of Unsold Cannabis

If you’re a consumer, unsold cannabis may present a golden opportunity. When you search dispensary, ask about any discounted products and see what kinds of deals you can find. Marijuana has an average shelf life of 6 to 12 months, so just be sure that it’s fresh when buying.

Also, be sure to inspect the cannabis for signs that it may be past its prime; look for signs of mold growth, and check to ensure that the herb isn’t brittle and dried out. As long as it’s in good shape, unsold cannabis can be a smart buy. Best of all, when you buy it, you’re helping to prevent waste while also helping a business to recoup some of their own purchase cost. It’s a win-win.


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