The legal cannabis market in the U.S. is growing at a faster rate than anybody could have predicted.
According to data published in the 2019 edition of the Marijuana Business Factbook, sales of medical and adult-use cannabis in the U.S. in 2018 total roughly $10.4 billion, putting it up there with the country’s sixth-largest fast food chain, Taco Bell. To further illustrate the size of the growth, the $10.4 billion legal cannabis market — up $2 billion from 2017 totals — is larger than the combined revenue of Goldfish crackers, e-cigarettes, and the Fortnite video game.
And there’s no signs of slowing down.
“The gradual legalization around the world of a plant which humans have been happily consuming for millennia is creating one of the largest industry-growth phenomena in history,” says Tom Adams, Managing Director at BDS Analytics, the official data partner of the National Cannabis Industry Association.
Growing, Growing, Growing
With Illinois, Maine, and Michigan on the brink of becoming the latest U.S. states to legalize recreational cannabis use among adults — and with Texas seemingly heading towards full hemp legalization — it appears inevitable that other major U.S. sectors will soon be surpassed by the explosive new market.
According to the Marijuana Business Factbook, one of the next biggest money-makers that cannabis could overtake in terms of revenue is the NFL, which pulled in an estimated $15 billion in 2018. If the cannabis industry’s impressive trajectory continues, it’s likely to top the professional football league by as early as by 2020, and could even surpass revenue levels generated by gym memberships in the near future.
“By the end of 2023, sales of legal cannabis in the United States could exceed Americans’ collective spending on gym memberships,” says Eli McVey, MJBizDaily research editor.
By comparison, 2018 revenue from other industries include online food delivery ($17 billion), gym memberships ($28.6 billion), McDonald’s ($36 billion), pizza ($45.7 billion), wine ($72.2 billion), and alcohol, which was worth a staggering $254 billion in 2018. While the $10.4 billion cannabis market may seem modest in comparison, keep in mind that the $10.4 billion represents only what’s legal.
“Legal sales represent just a fraction of the estimated total potential demand for cannabis in the United States, which is roughly $50 billion to $60 billion when black-market demand is included,” adds McVey.
More Growth to Come — Including Job Creation and Recreational Use
The revenue numbers in the Marijuana Business Factbook report include both legalized recreational cannabis and medicinal cannabis, but it’s the exploding recreational market that’s expected to be the principal driver of revenue growth in the U.S. Additionally, more than 64,000 cannabis industry jobs were added to the U.S. economy in 2018, meaning that approximately 250,000 American workers are now legally employed in the cannabis industry.
“Legal cannabis is currently the greatest job-creation machine in America,” says Bruce Barcott, Deputy Editor at Leafly. “The cannabis workforce increased by 21% in 2017. It gained another 44% in 2018. We expect at least another 20% growth in jobs in 2019. That would represent a 110% growth in cannabis jobs in just three years.”
The overall numbers are undeniable — between now and 2023, experts predict a legal cannabis sales growth of 200%. With both medicinal and recreational cannabis use now permitted in over 30 U.S. states — with more to come — the massive economic opportunity presented by the cannabis market is becoming too big to ignore.
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