- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2020

The business has come a long way since the hippies of yesteryear peddled “pot” on city streets. Sales of legal marijuana are surpassing money spent on common items such as toothpaste.

“With revenue of $10.6 billion-$13 billion in 2019, sales of legal adult-use and medical cannabis in the United States topped spending on sleep aids, hard seltzer and toothpaste combined,” said an analysis published by Marijuana Business Fact Book, and analysis issued by Marijuana Business Daily, an industry publication.

“Total marijuana sales now exceed the NBA’s annual U.S. revenue and, by 2024, could surpass Americans’ annual spending on craft beer,” said the analysis, which noted that Americans spent $3 billion on toothpaste.

It predicts retail sales of medical and recreational cannabis in the U.S. will top $15 billion by the end of the year — an increase of 40% over 2019. Sales could hit $37 billion in in the next three years.

“This data underscores the fact that the U.S. cannabis industry is already a major economic force, even though it has yet to reach its full potential,” said Eli McVey, research editor for the publication, which tracks the trends nationwide.

“On the adult-use side, sales in mature markets remain robust, while revenue in newly legalized states such as Illinois and Michigan is expected to grow quickly. California’s massive market continues to struggle with high taxes, local licensing restrictions and an entrenched illicit market,” the analysis noted.

It is a complicated marketplace, though.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy this week called legalizing marijuana in his cash-strapped state “an incredibly smart thing to do,” during an appearance with Jim Kerr, a local talk radio host.

“We’re not inventing marijuana. It exists,” the governor said, noting that he had long eyed potential tax revenue from legal marijuana sales — which could top $300 million a year, according to New Jersey Policy Perspective, a think tank.

“A recent poll showed six in 10 New Jersey voters said they would vote for marijuana legalization. But even if the measure passes in November, lawmakers will have to pass enabling legislation to establish an industry, mandating tax revenue and rules,” said NJ.com, a local news organization.

“That could mean more delays, a common feature in the state’s efforts to expand cannabis access. A new entity, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, would oversee the industry, as well as the existing medical marijuana program,” NJ.com said.

• Jennifer Harper can be reached at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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