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Cash the Crops

Estimates peg marijuana as California’s biggest cash crop

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Recreational marijuana has proved to be a boon for states that have legalized it, and this year four states will add that bounty to their budget.

A new analysis from the Orange County Register estimated marijuana could account for $23.3 billion in yearly revenue. This estimate surpasses Arcview Group and New Frontier research estimates of $6.5 billion yearly revenue by 2020.

Arcview's Arizona report estimated $367 million spent on marijuana in 2016 and said that could reach $681 million by 2020.

The Register used a different method in their estimates by analyzing the amount of marijuana plants seized in a given year. Local law enforcement is typically estimated to seize between 10-20 percent of drugs ready for sale each year.

California law enforcement seizes about 2 million plants per year, and the Register estimated 13.2 million plants grown in 2015. Averaging a pound of product per plant and at a market price of $1,765 per pound, that indicates $23.3 billion in revenue from pot for the industry.

In comparison, California's milk market was worth $6.29 million in 2015, while almonds and grapes brought in $5.33 million and $4.95 million, respectively.

According to the DEA, 2,452 marijuana plants were seized in Arizona in 2015, which would mean anywhere from 12,260 to 24,520 plants were in production that year. Several crowdsourced websites estimate a pound of marijuana to cost roughly $2000.

Using the Register's methodology, that would amount to between $24.5 million and $49 million for marijuana producers in Arizona.

By comparison, Arizona's next biggest crop is lettuce, which amounted to $736 million in sales in 2015, according to an annual USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service report.

While not the same cash cow for Arizona as it'd be for California, marijuana farming could account for 11.8 percent of Arizona's marijuana market by the Arcview estimate.

California is by far the nation's largest producer of marijuana with estimate of 13.2 million plants yearly. Next up would be Kentucky at roughly 2.9 million plants.

The United States grows about 21.3 million marijuana plants a year by DEA seizure estimates, which would yield $37.6 billion in revenue to farmers alone, using the Register's estimation method.

While the method is loose, the numbers can provide ballpark estimates for marijuana markets around the country. Omitted from these estimates would be revenue generated by resale, licensing and other marijuana products, hence Arcview's higher estimate for the value of Arizona's medical marijuana market.

The plant has potential to shake up markets beyond that of recreational substance consumption by providing medical alternatives and textile alternatives in the way of hemp.

Looking at a multi-billion-dollar national industry, it's no wonder several politicians feed into anti-marijuana propaganda to protect the industries that stand to lose money from a potential national marijuana market.

In the face of growing national support for legal marijuana, however, it'll be a tough sell for politicians to continue denying their constituents the reform they want to see. Eventually, public opinion must speak louder than prohibition's bankroll.

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