With recreational pot now legal in 18 states, cannabis is a bona fide profitable cash crop. In November, Leafly Holdings, Inc. released its first ever “Cannabis Harvest Report” that examined “farm licenses and production in the 11 states that have legal adult-use stores open and operating.”
“Cannabis is medically legal in 37 states, but for purposes of this report we focused on operating adult-use states—the 11 states where any adult can walk into a licensed store and buy cannabis—for salience to the general public,” the report’s authors wrote. “In those 11 adult-use states, cannabis supports 13,042 licensed farms that harvested 2,278 metric tons of marijuana last year. That amount would fill 57 Olympic swimming pools, or over 11,000 dump trucks stretching for 36 miles—and it’s returning $6,175,000,000 to American farmers every year.”
That figure of a little more than $6 billion “ranks (cannabis) as the fifth most valuable crop in the United States,” trailing corn ($61 billion), soybeans ($46 billion), hay ($17.3 billion), and wheat ($9.3 billion) but outpacing cotton ($4.7 billion), rice ($3.1 billion), and peanuts ($1.3 billion).
The report said that in five of the states where adult-use cannabis sales are legal—Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Oregon—cannabis is actually the most valuable crop.
“In each of the 11 states with adult-use retail stores operating, cannabis ranks no lower than fifth in terms of agricultural crop value—often within two years of the first stores opening. In Alaska, the cannabis crop is worth more than twice as much as all other agricultural products combined,” the report’s authors wrote.
The goal of the harvest report, Leafly said, was to “quantify annual cannabis production in operational adult-use states, just like the USDA’s Economic Research Service does for all non-cannabis crops.”
“The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) tracks annual yields, prices, and estimated values for nearly every commercial crop grown in America. But the USDA does not track legal cannabis due to the plant’s status as a Schedule I drug,” the authors wrote. “That’s just weird because in legal adult-use states, cannabis is consistently one of the highest-value crops in the field.”
“We also believe it’s time to end the stigma attached to cannabis farming. Far too many state agricultural agencies and policymakers still treat cannabis growers with contempt,” they continued. “Some right-to-farm laws specifically exclude cannabis farming. Most cannabis farmers must—by law—hide their crops from public view, as if the mere sight of a fan leaf might induce intoxication. These unfair and unnecessary measures are taken against a legal crop that’s one of the top agricultural products in every adult-use state. Cannabis farmers are farmers, period.”
The report’s findings echo a study released last month. That research, which came via the Marijuana Policy Project, found that the 11 states with licensed adult-use cannabis retailers generated more than $3.7 billion in total revenue in 2021.
That figure amounted to a revenue increase of 34% from recreational cannabis in those states compared with 2020.
“The legalization and regulation of cannabis for adults has generated billions of dollars in tax revenue, funded important services and programs at the state level, and created thousands of jobs across the country. Meanwhile, the states that lag behind continue to waste government resources on enforcing archaic cannabis laws that harm far too many Americans,” said Toi Hutchinson, the president and CEO of the Marijuana Policy Project, who added that the findings serve as “further evidence that ending cannabis prohibition offers tremendous financial benefits for state governments.”