How’s this for a sign o’ the times: Americans now spend more on legal weed than they do on chocolate.
Heck, we now spend more on legal dope than we do on chocolate and craft beer combined.
According to a new report from MJBizDaily, Americans spent about $30 billion on legal marijuana last year.
That compares with roughly $20 billion spent on chocolate and $8 billion spent on craft brews.
Almost two-dozen states now allow sales of weed for recreational purposes, and 19 more allow sales for medicinal use.
Legal cannabis sales are still dwarfed by sales of tobacco products, which last year totaled about $53 billion. But tobacco sales are steadily declining, whereas marijuana sales are rising.
By 2028, according to MJBizDaily, sales of legal weed could reach $57 billion.
This is extraordinary when you think that it wasn’t so long ago Americans were buying all their pot from dealers rather than dispensaries.
Yet illicit sales remain far more prevalent than legal ones. Whitney Economics estimates that three-quarters of marijuana sales in the United States still take place on the black market.
That’s because, to get medicinal and recreational use approved by state governments, high taxes were part of the equation.
Those levies are so high, however, that it leaves plenty of room for growers and dealers to cut themselves in for the bulk of the action.
It seems clear that states will have to revisit their marijuana taxes if they want to compete with, and shut down, the black market for dope.
And our friends in Washington will eventually have to accept the new reality and stop treating weed as being akin to heroin in terms of severity and addictiveness.
Strict federal rules for marijuana prevent legal dispensaries from working with banks and credit card companies to facilitate transactions, forcing legal weed to be an all-cash business. That’s in no one’s interest.
If nothing else, the fact that legal cannabis is now more popular, financially speaking, than chocolate says definitively how Americans feel about the drug.
Lawmakers and regulators need to follow suit.