Legal pot sales eclipse sales of chocolate in the US as Americans reach for joints and berry edibles instead

Chef Mindy Segalâs edible gummies

The $30 billion figure is a little more than half of what US consumers spent on tobacco products, but cigarette sales are declining while weed sales are ramping up.Chicago Tribune / Contributor

  • In 2022, Americans spent an estimated $30 billion on legal marijuana products.

  • Legal pot sales could top $33 billion this year – more than chocolate and craft beer combined.

  • New legalization in other states, including New York, is sending total US sales numbers skyward.

Americans love a good buzz, and they’re forking over big bucks to get it.

In the decade after Colorado and Washington legalized recreational cannabis use for adults, another 20 states have followed suit, while 19 more allow for medical use of the substance.

The expanding geographic market has led total retail sales of pot to eclipse revenues from several other categories of products that people use to feel a little better, according to a new report from MJBizDaily, a cannabis industry publication.

In 2022, Americans spent an estimated $30 billion on legal marijuana products – more than they spent on opioid medications ($22.8 billion) and topical pain relief ($2.8 billion) combined, MJBizDaily found.

Last year’s total also exceeds the combined total sales of chocolate and craft beer, which saw $20 billion and $7.9 billion, respectively.

The figure is a little more than half of the $52.7 billion that US consumers spent on tobacco products, but cigarette sales are declining while weed sales are ramping up.

If trends continue, MJBizDaily projects cannabis sales could reach as high as $33.6 billion this year and climb to nearly $57 billion by 2028.

And while medical cannabis currently represents roughly one-third of total sales, the report finds that level is expected to shrink as consumers turn to more readily accessible recreational options.

Of course, legal sales are still vastly outweighed by illicit ones – Whitney Economics estimated that legal transactions constituted just 25% of the total cannabis market in the US in 2021.

Vape pens and pre-rolls are starting to chip away at the market dominance of the bud – flower in industry parlance – and a proliferation of formats like beverages, resins, and tinctures is also driving a substantial proportion of sales.

Gummies are the most widely consumed edible, generating roughly $100 million in monthly sales. In March 2023 alone, retailers sold nearly $20 million of berry gummies, according to research firm Headset, which looked at sales from Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State.

Robust as the total US sales numbers are, recent years have not been kind to the cannabis industry. Rising prices and economic uncertainty, coupled with tumultuous financial and regulatory challenges, make it harder for businesses to stay afloat.

Even so, the demand is clearly there, waiting for state and federal lawmakers to catch up.

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