Thus far, recreational marijuana has only been legalized in a handful of states — but that doesn't mean the pot business isn't booming. In an email announcement on Tuesday, ArcView Market Research, an investment and research firm that specializes in the marijuana industry, announced that U.S. "adult use" marijuana sales (aka grownups buying pot for fun) grew 232 percent from 2014 to 2015.
The legal cannabis industry is now estimated to be worth $5.7 billion a year, up from $4.6 billion in 2014, according to ArcView, and that number is only expected to grow.
"Demand is expected to remain strong in 2016, with legal market sales projected to grow to $7.1 billion ... By 2020, legal market sales are expected to surpass $22 billion, with adult use sales comprising about 53% of the total legal market," Giadha DeCarcer, the founder and CEO of New Frontier, a cannabis industry research firm, said in an email from ArcView.
It's clear that the marijuana business has taken off in states where recreational pot is legal. By the end of 2014, the same year that Colorado's legalization went into effect, the state government reported it had taken in $52.5 million in tax revenue from marijuana sales and licensing fees. By the end of 2015, gross sales had reached almost $1 billion in Colorado.
According to ArcView, other states could reap the same cold, hard benefits if they move forward with legalization. "If all 9 states with ballot initiatives this year were to pass those laws, 9 in 10 Americans will live in a state where the use of cannabis in some form is legal. That is a staggering number when you realize that it was only two years ago that Colorado was the first state to fully legalize, and last year they generated nearly a billion dollars in marijuana sales," said ArcView CEO Troy Dayton in an email.
There's plenty of money to be made from selling recreational and medical marijuana, it seems — but as long as the parameters of the industry vary state-to-state, that cash will have to stay local.