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Legal weed is big business.
The North American marijuana market posted $6.7 billion in
revenue in 2016, up 30% from the year prior, according to a new
report from Arcview Market Research, a leading
publisher of cannabis market research.
The so-called “green rush” shows no sign of slowing down.
Arcview projects sales will grow at a compound annual growth rate
of 25% through 2021, when the North American market is expected
to top $20.2 billion.
“The only consumer industry categories I’ve seen reach $5
billion in annual spending and then post anything like 25%
compound annual growth in the next five years are cable
television (19%) in the 1990s and the broadband internet (29%) in
the 2000s,” said Tom Adams, editor-in-chief of Arcview
Market Research, in a statement.
Adams, who recently joined Arcview after a long stint as a
market researcher, says the booming cannabis industry reminds him
of a time when dial-up internet gave way to broadband, which
delivered faster, “always on” internet access.
The number of Americans with broadband internet access
3% in 2000 — when about half of US adults were online — to
in 2010, according to the Pew Research Center.
“What broadband changed for the internet was a kind of
remarkable parallel to legalization for cannabis,” Adams tells
Business Insider. “We saw what had been a $5 billion industry —
like this one — in North America take off at that point on new
In the case of the cannabis boom, Arcview’s CEO Troy Dalton
credits legalization with reeling in the stigma against the plant
and bringing new users to the market.
Skye Gould/Business Insider
In Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, where recreational use
was legal before 2016, consumer spending on cannabis was up 62%
between 2015 and September 2016, according to Arcview.
It’s been a big year for legalizing weed. Seven US states
legalized cannabis in some form on Election Day. California, the
sixth largest economy in the world, became the biggest domino to
fall with the passage of Proposition 64. Much of the West Coast
is now a legal enclave for recreational pot.
Dalton says the sudden popularity of alternative ingestion
methods, such as weed-laced topicals, sprays, and edibles, also
fueled growth. Consumers who would never smoke a joint are
finding relief in other products, which offer a wide array of
taste, strength, and experience.
“It’s one of the major reasons that people are going to leave the
underground market and go to aboveground market. It’s about
variety,” Dalton tells Business Insider. “You just can’t get
these products on the underground market.”
While the green business could achieve 25% growth year-over-year
through 2021, as new recreational markets come online, Adams says
legal weed is never going to be as big as the multi-billion
dollar internet access market. But their sustained growth rates
The pair predicts a great number of countries will legalize pot
in the next 10 to 15 years.
“So when you look at the global market, the world has never seen
something that will have such consistent growth over such a long
period of time as the cannabis industry,” Dalton says.
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