How Profitable is Cannabis Crop?

Stephen Andrews
03 May 2022

A recent analysis named "Cannabis Harvest Report," carried out by Leafly Holdings, Inc., claims cannabis is now the fifth most profitable crop in the U.S. The special report focused on cannabis licensing and production in 11 states where the plant is legal for recreational use.

According to Leafly's report, legal cannabis now supports over 13,000 American farms, making it the 5th most valuable crop in the nation. Cannabis harvest is worth more than cotton, rice and peanuts production, the report reveals. 

"Cannabis is medically legal in 37 states, but for purposes of this report we focused on operating adult-use-states—the 11 states where any adult can walk into a licensed store and buy cannabis—for salience to the general public," the report's authors remark. 

"In those 11 adult-use, cannabis supports 13,042 licensed farms that harvested 2,278 metric tons of marijuana last year. That amount would fill 57 Olympic swimming pools, or over 11,000 dump trucks stretching for 36 miles—and it's returning $6,175,000,000 to American farmers every year," the report goes on to say. 

While recreational cannabis is legal in 18 states in the U.S., the report examines only 11 as "federal prohibition prevents U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) economists from doing so." 

"By refusing to recognize cannabis crops and cannabis farmers, the USDA ignores a fact that exists in plain sight: Cannabis is now a major agricultural commodity that supports thousands of American farmers, farm families, and farm communities," the report says.

Report authors are straightforward in their call to end stigma "attached to cannabis farming." 

"Far too many state agricultural agencies and policymakers still treat cannabis growers with contempt. Some right-to-farm laws specifically exclude cannabis farming. Most cannabis farmers must—by law—hide their crops from public view, as if the mere sight of a fan leaf might induce intoxication," they write. 

The report further reveals that legal cannabis is the single most valuable crop in states such as Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Oregon. In Alaska, it is worth more than twice as much as all other agricultural products combined. 

Cannabis is the second most valuable crop in Arizona, and it comes third in the states of Michigan and Illinois. 

California has the most legal cultivation licenses, or 7,548 in total, followed by Oregon, where 1,319 farming licenses have been issued, Colorado with 1,245, and Washington with 1,091. 

The annual wholesale value of cannabis in 2020 was $6.2 billion. For that same year, cannabis was surpassed solely by wheat, valued at $9.3 billion, hay at $17.3 billion, soybeans at $46 billion, and corn, which is the most lucrative at $61 billion. 

Leafly's investigative team collaborated with economists at Whitney Economics to gather data, analyze wholesale prices and evaluate classes of cannabis quality. "We invested these resources into the Leafly Harvest Report because American voters and policymakers deserve actual data to inform decisions about legalizing, taxing, and regulating one of the country's fastest-growing industries," the report says.

"Cannabis doesn't raise itself. Cannabis farmers grow it. And it's time the nation celebrated their success," it concludes.

Stephen Andrews