Since the legalization of marijuana began in the mid-’90s, the industry of legal pot has exploded. Four states allow recreational purchases of cannabis, with a number of others that either allow for medical sales or have decriminalized small amounts of the drug. Because of that, marijuana industry jobs are more numerous than ever, and tax revenues are growing by the day.
But even with legalization, there’s a lot about the marijuana industry of which many people aren’t aware. For one thing, most people don’t realize how truly enormous legal pot has gotten. The industry is worth billions, and could be as big as the NFL within a few years. But even so, some states still have harsh penalties for possessing even small amounts. And even with recreational marijuana being legal, medical pot still outsells it because of taxes.
Here are some interesting facts about legal marijuana that you might not have known – or maybe you did, but were too stoned to remember.
1-The Legal Weed Industry Doubled in Value – in One Year
According to a 2013 report from ArcView Market Resarch, the legal marijuana industry was worth about $1.53 billion that year. By the next year, according to the same firm, its value had virtually doubled, jumping to $2.7 billion.
Marijuana Is Essentially Legal in North Korea
As likely the most restrictive society in the world, one would think that drug use would be severely punished in North Korea. While meth use might get you the firing squad, pot is seen as an accepted part of life in the Hermit Kingdom – especially in the military. Smoking “leaf tobacco” as it’s called is popular among young soldiers with no access to liquor who are looking to wind down. The plant grows wild in some parts of the country, is smoked publicly with no repercussions, and it’s possible to buy huge bags of pot in public markets.
Weed Could Be Bigger Than Football
If the marijuana industry continues growing at its current rate, and the drug becomes legal at the federal level, it could beworth as much as $35 billion in 2020. This would be three times more than the revenue brought in annually by the NFL.
Colorado Collected Almost Twice as Much in Taxes on Pot as Booze
For the first fiscal year that recreational marijuana was legal in Colorado, the state collected $70 million in taxes from it – and just $42 million in taxes from alcohol sales. So much money was made for the state that they declared a one-day tax holiday for marijuana as a thank you.
Despite Legalizing Pot, Colorado Still Has a Black Market
Even with Colorado voting to legalize recreational pot use, it still has a thriving underground pot market. About 40% of the weed sold in the state is off the books, mostly because it’s cheaper. The state heavily taxes marijuana, marking it up by almost a third.
Legalizing Pot Nationally Would Save – and Generate – Billions
A report from the Cato Institute points out just how expensive the War on Drugs is – and how much could be generated just from legalizing marijuana. $8.7 billion would be saved by not prosecuting marijuana offenders, not to mention the over $10 billion that would be generated in tax revenue at the federal level.
Colorado Employes More People in Pot Than Law Enforcement
A 2014 piece in Politico pointed out that there were about as many people working in the legal marijuana industry as working in law enforcement in the state – about 9,500 each. The number in the marijuana industry is likely even higher now.
Legalizing Marijuana Appears to Lower Crime
While the sample size is small, numbers from Colorado’s first year with legal recreational marijuana show not only no increase, but actually a decrease in crime. Total burglaries in 2013 in Denver totaled 5,094. In 2014, with marijuana legal, that number decreased about 10 percent to 4,594. Reported robberies in 2013 totaled 1,137 and decreased three percent to 1,099 for 2014.
However, arrests for drug violations in 2013 totaled 2,349 and increased almost 10 percent to 2,574 arrests for 2014. Almost all of these were for public use of marijuana, which police began enforcing more strictly.
Marijuana Is Still Illegal in Over Half the Country
While about half the country has some form of legal marijuana, from medical use only to completely available to all adults, it’s still completely illegal in 27 states. Almost all of the South and Midwest is either still without legal marijuana, or has decriminalized the possession, but not purchase, of small amounts.
There Have Been Deaths from Legal Pot
In May 2015, a fake story started going around breathlessly shrieking that two dozen people had died from eating “marijuana and vodka candies.” The story was picked up by DARE, without anyone realizing it was from a fake news site.
However, there have been three deaths in Colorado from overdoses on edibles. Two people committed suicide in a THC psychosis, and a man shot his wife in the same state – demonstrating the need to carefully label such products and a lack of consistency in their THC content. A number of children have also accidentally eaten edibles, putting them in the hospital for overdoses – but no deaths have been reported in those cases.
Marijuana Has Closed the Pay Gap
According to industry research, a full 36 percent of marijuana company CEOs are women – compared to just 22 percent in the rest of the business world. That number increases to almost two-thirds in the cannabis testing lab industry – a burgeoning field in states where pot is legal, but still not allowed for certain professions.
Denver Has a Pot Food Truck
The twin exploding industries of food trucks and edibles seemed destined to embrace each other. So it was no surprise when Seattle company Magical Butter unveiled its Samich Truck at the Cannabis Cup in Denver in 2014. The truck sells sandwiches, soups, and desserts all made with THC butter or oil. Because Denver tightened up on laws related to edibles, the truck went back to Seattle and hasn’t gone out much since. Magical Butter also planned to open a pot restaurant in Seattle, but that doesn’t appear to have come to fruition.
California Sells About Half the Legal Weed in America
While marijuana is legal in some form in 23 states, it’s California that sells the lion’s share of marijuana – 49 percent of all sales in 2014. Colorado, with its law permitting recreational use, sold 30 percent, while the rest of the country made up just 21 percent of sales.
Medical Marijuana Still Outsells Recreational Marijuana
At the start of 2014, medical sales far outweighed recreational. That gap closed over the course of the year, but even at the end of the year, more medical users were buying than people off the street. The biggest factor is price. Colorado heavily taxes recreational pot, but medical pot is taxed less. It also requires only a card approved by a doctor, which costs $15 – a fee that will quickly be made up by paying less in taxes.
Washington, D.C. Legalized Recreational Pot – Then Instantly Clamped Down on It
On November 4, 2014, voters approved a measure to legalize recreational marijuana use in the District of Columbia. Senate Republicans attempted to block the measure, but a 30 day review period passed, and no legal challenge was mounted to the bill, making it law. Just five days after the law went into effect, on March 1, 2015, D.C. lawmakers passeda host of new anti-pot laws, including a complete ban on smoking in any public building. The measure also had no provisions for taxation, and it remains in a quasi-legal area.
Many States Have More Dispensaries than Starbucks
The claim that a certain city has “more pot dispensaries than Starbucks” began in Los Angeles in 2009, when the city started talking about banning pot shops. It seemed true, with the number of shops thought to be over 1,000. The claim has also been made about Denver, and about the entire state of Oregon, which had 269 dispensaries as of June 30, 2015 – compared to 248 Starbucks locations, and 205 McDonald’s restaurants.
The US Technically Has the Death Penalty for Massive Marijuana Smuggling
Current US federal law allows the death penalty to be imposed on those guilty of possessing extraordinary amounts of the drug (60,000 kilograms or 60,000 plants) or who are part of a continuing criminal enterprise in smuggling contraband which nets over $20 million. However, such a sentence has never been handed down, and the Supreme Court has ruled use of capital punishment for anything other than a capital crime unconstitutional.
Several Countries Still Routinely Execute Cannabis Traffickers
While marijuana laws and their enforcement are relaxing in the US, a number of other countries still execute convicted marijuana traffickers. Thailand, Singapore, and China all frequently execute drug offenders. Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates have done so in the past – sometimes for small amounts of the drug.