Cannabis cultivated in 2021 for the state-legal adult-use market possessed a wholesale harvest cash value of more than $5 billion, making it the nation’s sixth most valuable cash crop, according to an analysis provided today by and Whitney Economics. Only corn, soybeans, hay, wheat, and cotton bring in more money on a wholesale basis.

In three states – Alaska, Massachusetts, and New Jersey – cannabis grown for the legal  marketplace is the “single most valuable crop.”

As of October 2022, adults in 15 states can obtain cannabis products in state-licensed retail stores. The report determined that those 15 states support 13,297 active legal cannabis farms, which employ tens of thousands of full-time workers.

Authors further determined that the total amount of cannabis grown in these states rose 24 percent year-over-year, totaling 2,834 metric tons in 2021. 

“Legalizing and regulating cannabis provides for more job opportunities, greater tax revenues, and safe access to high quality products at increasingly affordable prices,” NORML’s State Policy Manager Jax James said. “This economic data shows once again why legalization is a preferable  policy option over criminal prohibition.”

Despite ranking among America’s top agricultural crops, those involved in the legal cannabis market continue to face many hurdles unique to the industry, such as over-taxation, no banking or loan availability, high insurance rates, and high licensing fees. Furthermore, the United States Department of Agriculture fails to compile data regarding the production and sale of cannabis and many state agencies also fail to do so.

“It’s time to end the stigma attached to cannabis farming,” the report’s authors concluded. “Far too many state agricultural agencies and policymakers still treat cannabis growers with contempt. 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.”

Full text of Leafly’s analysis is available online.

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