The U.S. Legal Marijuana Economy Is Booming

United States

It’s 2018 and we’ve made a lot of civil rights progress, but weed still remains illegal in the majority of the US, not allowing you to do what you wish with your own body.

However, continued federal prohibition hasn’t stopped the marijuana industry from growing very profitable.

Despite what could be considered an unfriendly administration in Washington D.C., nine states and the District of Columbia now allow recreational marijuana use and 30 other states allow for medical use. And with more states lining up to join the legalization wave, pot has become big business in the U.S.

The newly emerging industry took in nearly $9 billion in sales in 2017, according to the managing director of BDS Analytics, which tracks the cannabis industry, Tom Adams. Sales are so high they have been equivalent to the entire snack bar industry, or to annual revenue from Pampers diapers.

Heck, that was even before California opened its massive retail market in January. The addition of the Golden State is huge for the industry and Adams estimates that national marijuana sales will rise to $11 billion in 2018, and to $21 billion in 2021.

In addition, the on rising industry has also been creating jobs and opportunities. There are 9,397 active licenses for marijuana businesses in the U.S., according to Ed Keating, chief data officer for Cannabiz Media, which tracks marijuana licenses. This includes cultivators, manufacturers, retailers, dispensaries, distributors, deliverers and test labs.

More than 100,000 people are working around the cannabis plant and that number’s going to grow, according to BDS Analytics. The industry employed 121,000 people in 2017. If marijuana continues its growth trajectory, the number of workers in that field could reach 292,000 by 2021, according to BDS Analytics.

Also, the economic benefits have helped states where marijuana has been legalized by funneling tax revenue from the sale of the drug to things like education and infrastructure.

BDS Analytics estimates that the industry owed $1 billion in state taxes in 2016, and owes another $1.4 billion for 2017.

“It’s a great thing because the money was already being spent [when it was illegal;] it’s just now being taxed,” said Tick Segerblom, a state senator from Nevada, which has reaped $25 million in tax revenue since recreational sales started in July. “And cops don’t have to waste their time arresting users.”

Marijuana isn’t just marijuana anymore. The products on offer at legal dispensaries range widely from the traditional flower to processed products like oil, hash, shatter and rosin, which can be smoked or vaped, and a wide variety of edibles including baked goods, candies, and gummies.

Its roots are spreading into the health and wellness industry, too.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a product in the form of oil or candy that’s used as a treatment for epilepsy or pain even though it faces a federal ban. The industry for CBD, derived from both hemp and marijuana, totaled $360 million last year, according to Sean Murphy, publisher of the Hemp Business Journal. He said it’s expected to grow to $1.1 billion by 2020 and $1.8 billion by 2020.