Cannabis moved one step closer to being a tradable commodity like wheat or oil on Tuesday after a U.S.-based group launched the first benchmark price to track Canadian wholesale cannabis prices.

Jonathan Rubin, chief executive officer of New Leaf Data Services LLC, the parent company of Cannabis Benchmarks which already releases similar U.S. pot prices, said demand to develop a benchmark Canadian cannabis price grew steadily after Canada became the first developed country in the world to legalize recreational use of the drug. 

"Even though the Canadian market isn’t as big as the U.S. market, we saw the Canadian market as incredibly important," Rubin said in a phone interview with BNN Bloomberg. 

For the week ending Dec. 14, the company's Canada Cannabis Spot Index was $7.79 per gram, up 0.8 per cent from the prior week and up from $7.47 per gram on Oct. 19, when the benchmark was first calculated, according to data provided to BNN Bloomberg. The price range over the past two months has fluctuated between $6.66  and $8.23 per gram. 

Cannabis Benchmarks calculates the prices from an undisclosed number of part-time reporters that include growers and dispensary owners as well as industry associations who submit their cannabis prices to a team of analysts, Rubin said. It will also include analysis of public and private data from Statistics Canada and publicly-traded cannabis producer filings.

Building a benchmark for cannabis prices

Jonathan Rubin, CEO of Cannabis Benchmarks, discusses his company's methodology for how to build a marijuana price benchmark. He discusses how cannabis prices have fluctuated in the U.S.

"We can only move as fast as the market evolves," Rubin said. "We’re trying to lead the market along sometimes and educate why this kind of transparency is important to drive market efficiency." 

Rubin hopes to publish prices daily and eventually on a real-time basis if a liquid, tradable market for cannabis emerges. Cannabis Benchmarks could also list prices by province and quality, such as how wheat trades on Winnipeg and Minnesota commodity exchanges. 

"We’re open to any exchange that might be willing to support a cash-settled spot contract," he said. 

It is also expected the data will be highly sought by the industry's retailers and producers once they work through the early days of legalization that has been fraught with supply shortages and limited distribution, Rubin said. 

If a standard cannabis price can be established, it will help retailers better adjust to market movements and protect margins, especially if prices plummet over the next few years, said Mark Goliger, chief executive officer of National Access Cannabis, in an interview with BNN Bloomberg.

Analysts expect Canadian pot prices to plummet in the coming years as more companies produce legal marijuana, similar to how the Colorado market saw cannabis prices decline over 50 per cent in the past five years.

Dietwald Claus, chief executive officer of Cannamerx, an online cannabis marketplace, said he welcomes any new information that brings transparency to the market. 

While Cannamerx isn't contributing price data to Cannabis Benchmarks, Claus told BNN Bloomberg in a phone interview his platform could help improve spot price reliability. 

"We have data from our trades that we're willing to share publicly to anyone who asks," he said.

Cannabis Canada is BNN Bloomberg’s in-depth series exploring the stunning formation of the entirely new — and controversial — Canadian recreational marijuana industry. Read more from the special series here and subscribe to our Cannabis Canada newsletter to have the latest marijuana news delivered directly to your inbox every day.