Legal marijuana sales are projected to quadruple from the $1.5 billion expected in 2013 to $6 billion in 2018, according to a study by Medical Marijuana Business Daily.
Marijuana farms such as this one could be a major cash crop if sensible policy ever makes its way to the federal government. PHOTO: Reuters
Legal marijuana sales are projected to quadruple from the $1.5 billion expected in 2013 to $6 billion in 2018, according to a study by Medical Marijuana Business Daily. Growing support for full legalization of marijuana is starting to exert a political force, but so is the compelling economic argument: people are going to smoke weed, and the government can take a cut by legalizing it, or it can incur huge costs for locking up pot smokers. It is the economic argument that I anticipate will lead more states to legalize marijuana for any use (not just medical) by 2018, making the estimate potentially too low.
Driving the projected surge in revenue are the legalization referenda in Colorado and Washington State that legalized marijuana for any use in 2012. The Obama Administration has been cagey about how they will respond to this full, state-wide legalization. President Obama spoke as a candidate about the fruitlessness of the War on Drugs, but raids on medical marijuana dispensaries have continued unabated under his presidency. This is the sort of issue where Obama has been far too politically cautious, tacking to the right to appease an imagined middle of the country. That middle is shifting, however: a recent Pew poll showed that country-wide support for legalizing marijuana has passed 50%.
Despite marijuana's uncertain legal status, it is likely that more states, like California, New York and Vermont will make an attempt, either through the legislative process or ballot referenda, to legalize marijuana in the next few years. Because of this, the $6 billion estimate might actually be low. That $6 billion figure might also start to loosen up some of the soft opposition to marijuana legalization. While one should never expect anything to happen federally on basically any issue ( here's why) states might see the potential for a tremendous windfall, especially if that state, like California, already throws away a lot of pointless money locking up people for small time drug offenses. The green (money) might be what compels states, and maybe by 2018, the federal government to legalize the green (marijuana).
Legalization makes all the sense in the world. Now we just have to wait for sense to catch up to politics.