Hunter Wilson of Growers Network does two separate analyses in an attempt to figure out the number of pounds of cannabis produced per year.
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Hi everyone! Growers Network is dedicated to providing high quality information about cannabis growing and the cannabis industry as a whole. We wanted to focus on something that many of our readers have requested -- Just how much cannabis is produced in the US, exactly? Today, in March of 2018, we wanted to attempt to address that question.
The numbers we are about to provide are estimates based on several sets of assumptions and data points that we have about the cannabis industry. Some of this information is freely available online, some we have acquired over our years here at Growers Network. However, the numbers we are providing make a lot of assumptions and can only be considered as raw estimates. Please do not make any major business decisions on these numbers. Growers Network will not be held liable for any such decisions. Reading this article means you confirm Growers Network cannot be held liable.
We used two methods to come up with this range of numbers, which I shall detail below:
Tax Revenue and Average Price Per Pound:
This method involved the use of tax revenue data available for states such as Washington and Oregon, the average price per pound information per state provided by Cannabis Benchmarks, and extrapolated based on the population for states with legal cannabis.
Essentially, this is what our formula looked like:
- Start with tax revenue for wholesale cannabis in Washington 2017
- Divide by tax percentage for producers [37%] to get raw sales of cannabis in Washington.
- Divide that number by the average price per wholesale pound 2017 to get total pounds produced in Washington.
- Divide that by the population of Washington 2017 to get an average number of pounds per citizen in a legal state.
- Multiply by the combined population of States with legalized cannabis 2017 to get an estimate of total number of pounds in the US.
Right away, you might be able to spot three main assumptions made with this method based on this formula:
- We are only examining legal cannabis that has been taxed. We cannot provide estimates of illegal cannabis produced nor home-grown cannabis.
- We are extrapolating from the amount produced per citizen in Washington to other states, which have different regulations regarding the production of cannabis.
- We assume that all other states with legal cannabis are producing at the same level and demand that Washington is. Since markets like California may be vastly different, this will certainly cause a wide margin of error.
Pounds Produced Per Square Foot of Canopy:
Our second method takes data we’ve gathered from our Largest Grow Operations series , estimating the raw square footage of cannabis farms in the US based on these values, coming up with an average pounds per square foot, and extrapolating from there.
Essentially, this is what our formula looked like:
- Start with total US square footage from our data
- Multiply by an assumed factor
- Multiply by average pounds produced per square feet for commercial producers.
There are several assumptions this method makes:
- Again, we only examine legal cannabis. We cannot reasonably provide estimates of illegal cannabis production nor home-grown cannabis.
- We extrapolate the amount of producing square footage in the US based on our current data. We are aware that our data set is incomplete, and are attempting to adjust for that using several different multipliers.
- We also assume the same amount of output per square foot. We know that this is not true, as a grower’s skill and growing style can have a direct impact on their production efficiency. However, since most of these differences will roughly average out on the large scale, we believe our assumption is not totally unfounded.
Method 1: Tax Data
2017 Washington producers produced $67 million in tax revenue. The excise tax rate for cannabis in Washington is 37%, and according to Cannabis Benchmarks , the wholesale price for cannabis in Washington is around $1225. Based on these values, the rough amount of cannabis produced in Washington is around 147,800 pounds. Not bad Washington, not bad!
Extrapolating this data by Washington’s population (7.12 million), that means about 0.02 pounds per person in Washington, or roughly a gram per person. If you extrapolate that out to the population of the US living in states with legal cannabis (225.5 million), that means around 4,681,700 pounds.
So 4.7 million pounds of cannabis per year in the US based on Washington tax data. Not bad.
Method 2: Square Footage
Based on statistics provided by several different sources, we estimate that the average amount of cannabis produced is around 0.13 pounds per square foot per year. Our current data on the largest grow operations has around a total of 3.5 million square feet. Below is a table for different estimates of how much grow space in the US and what that means for total production.
||Total US Sq. Ft.||Total Pounds Produced|
Now the interesting thing about this method of estimating total pounds of cannabis produced in this US is that it gives us conservative and liberal estimates. If we assume that our largest grow operations list is only 1/10th of the entire industry, we arrive at a value close to the value we returned from the tax data.
Liberal estimates of the total amount of legal cannabis produced are around 5 million pounds of cannabis per year. More conservative estimates place the total amount of legal cannabis produced per year closer to 2.5 million pounds.
Either way, that’s a lot of cannabis!
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About the Author
Hunter Wilson is a community builder with Growers Network. He graduated from the University of Arizona in 2011 with a Masters in Teaching and in 2007 with a Bachelors in Biology.