Marijuana Revenue Calculations
Forbes magazine reports that the legal sales of marijuana at $9.7 billion in 2017 in North America. But this is not the number which is important. The important number is what is the black market value of marijuana sold in the US. And this number is harder to find and much more uncertain.
There are other interesting legal numbers. The very expensive Marijuana Business Factbook estimates legal retail sales for 2017 at a much lower value ($5.5 to $6.6 billion) but this same sources has a shocking forecast of $50 to $55 billion in estimated legal sales by the end of 2019. This would put marijuana sales as greater than video games, doughnuts and 5 times the value of the combined sale of guns and ammunition.
I am working on an update of this blog post from before even the Colorado legalization took place in 2014, attempting to estimate the total value of black market pot sales in the US. These numbers look too big to me now, but they might be the right order of magnitude, thus dwarfing the legal sales nationally. November 2018
The head of the California Cannabis Manufacturing Association estimates that there are 5 times more illegal distributors in most California cities than legal ones. These illegal dispensaries are also charging 2 to 3 times less than the legal ones, and thus presumably doing more business. If we extrapolate this to the nation, then the floor value of illegal marijuana sales would be about $50 billion in 2017, excluding non-dispensary sales. And if we use the Marijuana Business Handbook forecast for 2019, we are looking at over $250 billion in total illegal sale nationwide.
The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area report estimates 49,000 metric tons of marijuana made it to market from California in 2009. The street value of an ounce of marijuana is (according to Yahoo Answers) is $300
An ounce is 28.35 grams. This means a metric ton of marijuana is worth about $10 million. This means the total California crop is worth on the order of $500 billion.
Now what is seized is not what is sellable, so there is a significant factor – perhaps 5 fold which this number might be reduced by for the parts of the plant which have little value. But since HIDTA is saying the 49K tones is what did not make it to market, presumably this is after cleaning. So i will stick with the half a trillion dollar number, in part as well for its pure shock value.
Update: Mere days after i made this calculation Mexican authorities reported they had seized 105 tones (presumably metric) of Mexican marijuana worth US$340 million. Using this calculation, the 2009 California crop would be worth about $160 billion. But again, crops grown in Mexico are typically worth about a third of those grown in the superior conditions of California, bringing the price back to around half a trillion dollars.