Marijuana...California's largest cash crop

Pot is called biggest cash crop
The $35-billion market value of U.S.-grown cannabis tops that of such heartland staples as corn and hay, a marijuana activist says

By Eric Bailey, Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — For years, activists in the marijuana legalization movement have claimed that cannabis is America's biggest cash crop. Now they're citing government statistics to prove it.

A report released today by a marijuana public policy analyst contends that the market value of pot produced in the U.S. exceeds $35 billion — far more than the crop value of such heartland staples as corn, soybeans and hay, which are the top three legal cash crops.

California is responsible for more than a third of the cannabis harvest, with an estimated production of $13.8 billion that exceeds the value of the state's grapes, vegetables and hay combined — and marijuana is the top cash crop in a dozen states, the report states.

The report estimates that marijuana production has increased tenfold in the past quarter century despite an exhaustive anti-drug effort by law enforcement.

Jon Gettman, the report's author, is a public policy consultant and leading proponent of the push to drop marijuana from the federal list of hard-core Schedule 1 drugs — which are deemed to have no medicinal value and a high likelihood of abuse — such as heroin and LSD.

He argues that the data support his push to begin treating cannabis like tobacco and alcohol by legalizing and reaping a tax windfall from it, while controlling production and distribution to better restrict use by teenagers.

"Despite years of effort by law enforcement, they're not getting rid of it," Gettman said. "Not only is the problem worse in terms of magnitude of cultivation, but production has spread all around the country. To say the genie is out of the bottle is a profound understatement."

While withholding judgment on the study's findings, federal anti-drug officials took exception to Gettman's conclusions.

Tom Riley, a spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, cited examples of foreign countries that have struggled with big crops used to produce cocaine and heroin. "Coca is Colombia's largest cash crop and that hasn't worked out for them, and opium poppies are Afghanistan's largest crop, and that has worked out disastrously for them," Riley said. "I don't know why we would venture down that road."

The contention that pot is America's biggest cash crop dates to the early 1980s, when marijuana legalization advocates began citing Drug Enforcement Administration estimates suggesting that about 1,000 metric tons of pot were being produced nationwide. Over the years, marijuana advocates have produced studies estimating the size and value of the U.S. crop, most recently in 1998.

Gettman's report cites figures in a 2005 State Department report estimating U.S. cannabis cultivation at 10,000 metric tons, or more than 22 million pounds — 10 times the 1981 production.

Using data on the number of pounds eradicated by police around the U.S., Gettman produced estimates of the likely size and value of the cannabis crop in each state. His methodology used what he described as a conservative value of about $1,600 a pound compared to the $2,000- to $4,000-a-pound street value often cited by law enforcement agencies after busts.

In California, the state's Campaign Against Marijuana Planting seized nearly 1.7 million plants this year — triple the haul in 2005 — with an estimated street value of more than $6.7 billion. Based on the seizure rate over the last three years, the study estimates that California grew more than 21 million marijuana plants in 2006 — with a production value nearly triple the next closest state, Tennessee, which had an estimated $4.7-billion cannabis harvest.

California ranked as the report's top state for both outdoor and indoor marijuana production. The report estimates that the state had 4.2 million indoor plants valued at nearly $1.5 billion. The state of Washington was ranked next, with $438 million worth of indoor cannabis plants.

California also is among nine states that produce more cannabis than residents consumed, Gettman estimates. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the state's 3.3 million cannabis users represent about 13% of the nation's pot smokers. But California produces more than 38% of the cannabis grown in the country, the study contends.

Nationwide, the estimated cannabis production of $35.8 billion exceeds corn ($23 billion), soybeans ($17.6 billion) and hay ($12.2 billion), according to Gettman's findings.
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  • Mistaken 2009/10/13 16:16:05
    "California ranked as the report's top state for both outdoor and indoor marijuana production. The report estimates that the state had 4.2 million indoor plants valued at nearly $1.5 billion. The state of Washington was ranked next, with $438 million worth of indoor cannabis plants."
    As a Northern California resident who grows pot myself, Please by all means legalize and tax. Put the tax money into getting all the tweekers and junkies and crackheads off the street. I don't grow to sell myself, but I have friends that do and they don't put alot of capital in but they get between three and four hundred percent return. Very lucrative business. Imagine what Our great state could put in, and get in return.

  • God-Cilla (Saviour to the M... 2009/04/18 07:11:49
    God-Cilla (Saviour to the Masses)
    Aw poor soy, it's so unloved XD
  • Darkend God-Cil... 2009/04/18 07:13:02
    Here we go again, back to being weird..this is about marijuana...not soy!!! LOL
  • God-Cil... Darkend 2009/04/18 07:14:31
    God-Cilla (Saviour to the Masses)
    No no, I mean it's listed as the 3rd largest cash crop!!! XD
    It's in the info LOL!
  • Darkend God-Cil... 2009/04/18 07:16:46
  • God-Cil... Darkend 2009/04/18 07:19:45
    God-Cilla (Saviour to the Masses)
  • Darkend God-Cil... 2009/04/18 07:20:34
    LOL =D

    I actually laughed out loud for a good 2 minutes on that one...oh..let me catch my breath please.
  • God-Cil... Darkend 2009/04/18 07:25:35
    God-Cilla (Saviour to the Masses)
    Because of the cat or because of your ignorance of THE FACTS?!?!?
    XD LOL I laughed hard too.
  • Darkend God-Cil... 2009/04/18 07:27:08
    The cat made me laugh too. But like i said, i love peoples reactions...and you saying WTF!???. bout made me die

    oh..Ignorance is bliss =)
  • God-Cil... Darkend 2009/04/18 07:31:57
    God-Cilla (Saviour to the Masses)
    Yeah reactions make the world go 'round.
    I actually said "WTF" out loud. XD
  • Darkend God-Cil... 2009/04/18 07:32:44
    HA! even better.
  • God-Cil... Darkend 2009/04/18 07:35:14
    God-Cilla (Saviour to the Masses)
    Yes yes yes.
    You like information about weed??
  • Darkend God-Cil... 2009/04/18 07:38:01 (edited)
    This reminds me of the cop who called 911 because he thought he was having an overdose...after eating weed brownies...LOL!
  • God-Cil... Darkend 2009/04/18 07:40:44
    God-Cilla (Saviour to the Masses)
    That happened? WoW, what a cop!!!
  • Darkend God-Cil... 2009/04/18 07:42:58
  • God-Cil... Darkend 2009/04/18 07:53:28
    God-Cilla (Saviour to the Masses)
    "I think we're dead!!!"
    What an idiot.
    "Time is going by really, really slow!!" AHAHAHAHAHA!!!
    WoW oh WoW, wtf why did his mother-in-law come????
    That is freaking hilarious.
  • Darkend God-Cil... 2009/04/18 07:55:49
    LOL. Tell me about it! - He said a half ounce...I personally have smoked 2 ounces in a couple hours, (me and a buddy) And was stoned as hell...but not this stupid! lol
  • God-Cil... Darkend 2009/04/18 08:03:37
    God-Cilla (Saviour to the Masses)
    Haha, no, he said 1/4 ounce!!
    Now I've never smoked weed, but I even know that is nothing to call the cops over. XD
    I mean, come on. "I overdosed on weed" WTF???
  • Darkend God-Cil... 2009/04/18 08:07:33
    You know technically in order to overdose on weed you have to smoke 4lb of weed in a matter of minutes, to get enough THC to actually overdose.

    p.s. My profile pic is me smoking a blunt. I smoke daily, hourly, probably even minutely. I dont do any drugs, and i dont really drink either. I just smoke weed =D
  • God-Cil... Darkend 2009/04/18 08:11:53
    God-Cilla (Saviour to the Masses)
    Haha I know, my brother tells me things. XD
    Hey, that is cool with me LOL!

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