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Marijuana, the New Top Cash Crop in Massachusetts

For three years in a row, the governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, has decreed that October is Cranberry Month to support the state’s cranberry industry. In the last year, the fruit grossed a whopping $66 million. However, this year cranberries have some competition for the crown of the number one cash crop, and as October ends, it’s time to turn the spotlight to marijuana and what it’s doing for the state’s economy.

Just A Cranberry In The Bog

Massachusetts is the second largest supplier of cranberries in the country. Although cranberries have amassed a large amount of wealth for Massachusetts, the most recent report from Leafly shows that cannabis has generated $362 million this year alone, over five times more than cranberries. According to the Leafly estimate, which cites Whitney Economics and the USDA Economic Research Service, cannabis products brought in $1.45 billion in the state last year, with farmers collecting roughly 75 tons of cannabis, up from 47 tons in 2021.

It’s clear that cannabis has become a valuable addition to the state’s economy. While the cranberry industry has been the most lucrative agricultural income for Massachusetts, it’s still trailing far behind the numbers that marijuana has produced this year.

The Only Way Is Up

After more than a century of prohibition, Massachusetts legalized recreational cannabis in November 2016. In fewer than three years, the state’s gross sales topped $2 billion. Although recreational cannabis was authorized in 2016, sales did not commence until November 2018, when two dispensaries opened their doors. According to Leafly’s report, the state now has 340 adult-use cannabis license holders. Since 2018, the commission has granted licenses to 908 marijuana firms, including cultivators, product makers, merchants, independent testing laboratories, microbusinesses, marijuana couriers, and others.

New jobs are being created as the marijuana business expands. And the majority of people taking these jobs are new to the industry. The area offers prospects for people with a variety of degrees and backgrounds, from the retail floor at adult-use shops to the science behind manufacturing goods or leading a marijuana company’s human resources department.

Lab leader Gene Ray has been enjoying the marijuana industry boom first-hand. When the enormous Fitchburg grow facility originally opened, Ray recalls working with around 30 people. There are now over 150 employees there, not including those at their three dispensaries and Newton headquarters. Ray is looking forward to the next four years in this large, dynamic local sector, with ongoing rivalry for new licenses.

 

Spreading Like Weeds

 

Spreading Like Weeds

The amount of money made by Massachusetts thanks to the marijuana industry and its sales are impressive but not exclusive to the state. The Leafly report mentioned above also shows that marijuana has climbed its way to the fifth most valuable crop in the country.

With wholesale cannabis prices in the United States ranging from $500 to $3,000 per pound, the crop is worth $6.175 billion per year. The value of America’s legal cannabis crop ranks fifth countrywide, ahead of cotton, according to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) figures. Despite this, state and federal officials rarely monitor or acknowledge it. Why did we not count the harvest? Because cannabis is both stigmatized and valuable.

USDA economists monitor annual yields, prices, and estimated values for almost every commercial crop farmed in the United States. However, due to the plant’s federal Schedule I designation, they do not track legal cannabis. In the case of cannabis cultivation and farming, prohibition, over-regulation, and over-taxation violate Americans’ constitutional right to pursue happiness. The federal government must legalize cannabis for adults while also grandfathering in legacy cannabis farmers through modest licensing fees and simple licensing procedures in order to see the industry truly thrive.

There is a clear economic trend that’s been followed by every state that has legalized cannabis sales and consumption. The marijuana industry brings in millions in every state it’s allowed to operate, so it’s no surprise that more and more people have started paying attention and fighting for the freedom to use the plant.

As the popularity of cannabis increases and consuming it becomes more normalized, we can certainly expect to see a continued upswing in the numbers. Marijuana is steadily making its way to the number one crop in the US.

 

USDA economists monitor annual yields

 


 

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