Cannabis Eclipse Sales of Chocolate

Stephen Andrews
25 Apr 2023

Legal cannabis did better than chocolate in 2022. CNN reported on the industry figures on 4/20, saying that legal cannabis retail topped $30 billion, more than a third of chocolate's $18 billion.

CNN Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten spent this April 20th taking a look at the amount of money Americans spent on legal cannabis purchases last year. The number top other "feel good" products such as chocolate. 

Enten also looked at people's perception of what's more dangerous between alcohol and marijuana. In 2022, the overwhelming plurality said alcohol is more dangerous than weed. 

Reports show that Americans spent more on legal cannabis last year than chocolate and also craft beer. Recreational cannabis further outperformed topical pain relief products and opioid medications. Where cannabis didn't outperform, it's tobacco, which still holds stronger at over $70 billion value in 2022. 

Cannabis made over $30 billion last year despite a steady decline. Legal dispensaries now function in 20 states plus DC. In addition, 18 states allow it for medical use. It remains illegal in 12 states. 

Last year, the more successful markets were the ones that launched legal sales relatively recently. Established markets on the other hand staggered. 

According to some estimates, sales of legal cannabis could climb to $57 billion by 2028. 

These figures come more than a decade after Colorado and Washington voters approved ballot measures during the 2012 elections, becoming the first states in the U.S. to move forward with legal marijuana. 

Although legalization is rapidly spreading across the country, illegal marijuana sales remain common enough. In fact, Whitney Economics estimates that three-quarters of all marijuana sales in the U.S. still occur in the black market. The problem is particularly worrying in legal states such as California, where among those who lose the most to illegal transactions are small businesses that offer craft cannabis. 

Strict federal rules for marijuana also force difficult business practices for legal retailers, as they do not have access to everyday banking services, banks do not want to work with them, and everyone must facilitate all transactions with cash. 

Reaching a $30 billion value under these circumstances is impressive when you think about it. I can only imagine what would happen with legal cannabis when the illegal trade is significantly reduced, and the feds introduce more decent laws to regulate cannabis commerce.

Stephen Andrews