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The U.S. legal marijuana industry is booming

It's 2018 and marijuana remains illegal in the United States.But continued federal prohibition hasn't stopped ...

Posted: Feb 1, 2018 6:58 AM
Updated: Feb 1, 2018 6:58 AM

It's 2018 and marijuana remains illegal in the United States.

But continued federal prohibition hasn't stopped the marijuana industry from growing like a very profitable weed.

Despite what could be considered an unfriendly administration in Washington D.C., nine states and the District of Columbia now allow for recreational marijuana use and 30 allow for medical use. And more states are lining up to join the legalization wave. Pot has become big business in the U.S.

The emerging industry took in nearly $9 billion in sales in 2017, according to Tom Adams, managing director of BDS Analytics, which tracks the cannabis industry. Sales are equivalent to the entire snack bar industry, or to annual revenue from Pampers diapers.

That was before California opened its massive retail market in January. The addition of the Golden State is huge for the industry and Adams estimates that national marijuana sales will rise to $11 billion in 2018, and to $21 billion in 2021.

The industry has also been creating jobs and opportunities. There are 9,397 active licenses for marijuana businesses in the U.S., according to Ed Keating, chief data officer for Cannabiz Media, which tracks marijuana licenses. This includes cultivators, manufacturers, retailers, dispensaries, distributors, deliverers and test labs.

More than 100,000 people are working around the cannabis plant and that number's going to grow, according to BDS Analytics. The industry employed 121,000 people in 2017. If marijuana continues its growth trajectory, the number of workers in that field could reach 292,000 by 2021, according to BDS Analytics.

Related: How much to pot jobs pay? Botanists make more than budtenders

The economic benefits have helped states where marijuana has been legalized by funneling tax revenue from the sale of the drug to things like education and infrastructure

BDS Analytics estimates that the industry owed $1 billion in state taxes in 2016, and owes another $1.4 billion for 2017.

"It's a great thing because the money was already being spent [when it was illegal;] it's just now being taxed," said Tick Segerblom, state senator from Nevada, which has reaped $25 million in tax revenue since recreational sales started in July. "And cops don't have to waste their time arresting users."

Marijuana isn't just marijuana anymore. The products on offer at legal dispensaries range widely from the traditional flower to processed products like oil, hash, shatter and rosin, which can be smoked or vaped, and a wide variety of edibles including baked goods, candies and gummies.

Related: IRS collects billions in pot taxes, much of it in cash

Its roots are spreading into the health and wellness industry, too.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a product in the form or oil or candy that's used as a treatment for epilepsy or pain even though it faces a federal ban. The industry for CBD, derived from both hemp and marijuana, totaled $360 million last year, according to Sean Murphy, publisher of the Hemp Business Journal. He said it's expected to grow to $1.1 billion by 2020 and $1.8 billion by 2022.

So what's next?

The industry remains on shaky footing because of its precarious legal status, and the country's top law enforcement official recently injected a healthy dose of uncertainty into recreational programs in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California, Nevada, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine.

Related: Weed industry preps for fight after Sessions rips up Cole memo

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an outspoken opponent of legal pot, took action on January 4 after California dispensaries started selling recreational marijuana. Sessions ripped up the nascent protections provided to the industry by the Obama administration. He rescinded the so-called Cole memo of 2013, the guidance from then-Deputy AG James Cole to federal prosecutors suggesting a hands-off approach to the state-legal industry.

The reaction was mixed, with some marijuana business owners vowing to plow ahead, but others worried about expanding in a politically risky business atmosphere.

"The whole industry is under a cloud because no one knows to what extent [Sessions] is willing to interfere with the states," said Keith Stroup, who co-founded the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, in 1970. "By the time we get 20 states that have fully legalized marijuana, then I think we'll have enough support to finally convince the federal government to get out of the way."

The game is about to get a lot bigger, with Canada planning to legalize in July and Eastern states in the U.S. catching the fever -- the state of Vermont just voted to lift prohibition in its state and New Jersey is expected to legalize recreational marijuana this year.

"The only thing you could really do to put the genie back in the bottle, is just start arresting everybody," Stroup said. "But I can't see it leading to some massive crackdown. That just seems like political disaster for the administration."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 113081

Reported Deaths: 3231
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7850176
DeSoto685779
Harrison505083
Jackson445084
Rankin388186
Madison377993
Lee350779
Forrest299578
Jones287784
Washington255199
Lafayette245943
Lauderdale2418134
Lamar221238
Bolivar200177
Oktibbeha199354
Neshoba1831111
Lowndes176362
Panola169038
Leflore165187
Sunflower159749
Warren153655
Monroe147372
Pontotoc145819
Marshall139227
Lincoln138557
Pike137756
Copiah136236
Coahoma124736
Scott124729
Grenada121138
Yazoo120733
Simpson120449
Union116525
Tate114939
Leake114340
Holmes114160
Pearl River112259
Itawamba112125
Adams106743
Prentiss103719
Wayne99821
Alcorn98112
George97718
Covington95326
Marion93542
Tippah88121
Newton85227
Chickasaw83626
Tallahatchie83025
Winston82821
Tishomingo80041
Hancock79827
Attala78926
Clarke73450
Clay68321
Jasper67717
Walthall63627
Calhoun61912
Noxubee59617
Smith58916
Montgomery53523
Claiborne53316
Tunica52817
Yalobusha51914
Lawrence50714
Perry48623
Carroll47612
Greene46918
Stone46214
Humphreys42616
Amite42113
Quitman4196
Jefferson Davis40011
Webster37013
Wilkinson33520
Benton3255
Kemper32015
Sharkey28014
Jefferson27410
Franklin2373
Choctaw2046
Issaquena1074
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 154942

Reported Deaths: 2660
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22861374
Mobile14468314
Tuscaloosa10148139
Montgomery9875196
Madison915094
Shelby720462
Lee649665
Baldwin647569
Marshall433049
Calhoun418960
Etowah418749
Morgan403635
Houston369232
DeKalb330229
Elmore314852
St. Clair287142
Limestone276530
Walker272293
Talladega261035
Cullman235724
Lauderdale214841
Jackson210015
Autauga202330
Franklin202131
Colbert196731
Russell19233
Blount189325
Dallas186227
Chilton184132
Escambia171929
Coffee171710
Covington169929
Dale165451
Chambers133643
Pike132313
Tallapoosa130587
Clarke130017
Marion106229
Butler100140
Barbour9979
Marengo99222
Winston91313
Geneva8527
Pickens82417
Lawrence82131
Randolph81216
Bibb81114
Hale74930
Clay72912
Cherokee72614
Lowndes70328
Monroe64010
Henry6396
Bullock63717
Washington63412
Crenshaw60230
Perry5836
Wilcox56212
Fayette56113
Conecuh55713
Cleburne5438
Macon52920
Sumter47021
Lamar4665
Choctaw38812
Greene34216
Coosa2023
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