RED DIRT REPORT – Shane Smith | January 23, 2017
NORMAN, Okla. – To say that 2016 was a watershed year for legal cannabis in the U.S. would be an understatement, to put it very lightly. Last year, legal sales grew at a rate of 30 percent, faster than even the dot-com era boom.
Sales totaled $6.7 billion, and four states legalized recreational marijuana, with four states legalizing medical marijuana. That’s 28 states total that have legalized medical marijuana, and eight states that allow recreational use.
The biggest win by far was legalization of recreational marijuana use in California, a state home to 38 million U.S. citizens, making it by far the largest state to pass legalization. Cannabis has already become, by far, the most valuable cash crop in the Golden State, at $23.3 billion, making it more valuable than the next five cash crops combined.
The medical marijuana market in Los Angeles alone already rivals that of the entire state of Colorado, at $1 billion per year.
The skyrocketing growth has also fueled the creation of thousands of jobs. In 2015, 18,000 marijuana-related jobs were created in Colorado alone, bringing with it $2.7 billion in economic activity for the state. The legal cannabis industry employed around 150,000 people in 2016, as many workers as there are flight attendants and web developers in the U.S.
What does all this bode for legal weed in the near future? Predictions vary slightly, but opinion is unanimous in that every expert sees explosive growth for the legal marijuana market in 2017.
The market is predicted to grow to $20.2 billion by 2021 according to Arcview Market Research, although some consider that something of an underestimate. The Marijuana Policy Project predicts that 10 states will legalize marijuana in some form in the new year, bringing with it thousands of jobs as the once-black market is brought into the light.
Growing at a steady annual 24 percent would push marijuana sales up to $50 billion by 2026, tripling jobs in just a few years.
2017 could also see the first legalization of recreational marijuana through the legislative process. Rhode Island legislators are strongly considering legalizing recreational marijuana through legislation, rather than the ballot initiative, which has been the method of legalization in all other states.
While the incoming Trump administration has caused stirrings of uncertainty among cannabis entrepreneurs, most are convinced that the new president won’t interfere with the rapidly-growing “green rush,” despite the fact that his appointments, including staunch Prohibitionist Jeff Sessions, are anti-legalization. Pro-legalization supporters even handed out thousands of free joints in Washington, D.C. during the inauguration to send a message to anti-legalization members of the new administration, and also creating the largest line of people in D.C. that day.
Marijuana prohibition is crumbling, and in its place a thriving, burgeoning market is growing. No one save a handful of Drug War dinosaurs buys the prohibition argument anymore.
Not when the insanity of the federal government spending $18 billion to destroy a plant in a single year is made plain. Not in the face of the fact that more people are arrested for marijuana use than all violent crimes combined.
Resources have been poured into the black hole of prohibition, wasted, and left in its wake destroyed lives, utterly ruined communities, and a gargantuan bureaucracy that derives its existence from the sole fact that a plant is forbidden. No one in their right mind buys into that insanity, and it is manifesting in the huge support that legalization now receives from every American citizen.
Legalization is here to stay, and it’s bringing the country out of the dark night of the Drug War. It offers up prosperity, if only we have the sense to get out of its way and let it grow.