AMSTERDAM (MainStreet) - Consumers in Amsterdam, long the world's most liberal capital when it comes to pot, pay prices for legal marijuana that is highly competitive with black market rates across the rest of the continent at least. The price is also comparable to U.S. markets for comparable strengths and strains. In fact, it appears that the Cannabis Cup-connected smoke shops here are standardizing stock. This trend is perhaps an inevitability of commerce when a large expo comes to town, but there are also indications that the market, even here, is consolidating as well.

Prices start from 9 euros a gram (approximately $11.25) no matter where customers shop throughout the "red light" district. Some of the newer entries now popping up (including right across the street from a globally known hotel chain no matter how much the local whinging about zoning restrictions and closures) have selections and storefronts and services that rival legit Colorado and Washington state recreational establishments.

Local consumers can pay with the Maestro (Dutch local) debit card. Medical users do not have to pay taxes. This actually makes medical users in Holland able to avail themselves of the cheapest and certainly still safest free market medical selection in the world bar none.

Next door in Germany (and the border between the two countries is also wide open), illegal street sellers peddle hash and lower grade strains of marijuana in every medium-sized town and city (usually with far less variety available) for about the same price. Cross-border trade and efforts to prohibit it, however, does not seem to be an issue here in part because of the millennium-long Moroccan and Spanish trade to the south and east which dwarfs local home grow or semi-gray industrial cross border trade in any European country. The German government is also importing Dutch-grown marijuana for medical users at great expense (about $1,500 for a month's supply per patient of about an ounce). This is also a reason for sovereign developments of this summer.

As a result, street prices in Germany are also usually in the 7 to 10 euro a gram price at the retail level. "Bulk" buys in the five to ten gram range, particularly of hash (imported directly from Morocco if not Turkey), can be bought for much cheaper prices by the regular medical or casual consumer with good relationships and German fluency. Sellers cannot usually be persuaded to sell more even then (which is also about the bar that the police use when deciding whether to charge formally those they catch). That said, widespread drug interdictions of this personal nature are rare across Europe, usually sporadically clustered around transportation points (such as train stations) and not present at anything close to the scale on which this occurs in the U.S., particularly over the last decade.

A cross border analysis of the EU trade (legal or gray) set against developments in the U.S. therefore is a good benchmark to determining trends.

The global price for the marijuana commodities market is far from uniform at this point, but it is clearly moving in that direction, despite such outliers as Israel (which is creating a nationalized price of approximately $100 per month per medical user for about an ounce of marijuana). With Uruguay's global market primed for export, national country medical trials now ongoing in Italy, the Germans on a clear path to widespread medical reform with the decision of the Cologne Administrative Court this summer on home grow and the ever-present rec market in Berlin, it is also clear that the infrastructure is developing outside the U.S. for trade winds of reform to begin to shape global and above board market prices.

--Written by Marguerite Arnold for MainStreet