‘Cannabis Harvest Report’ values US crops 5th in the nation in 2021. What is up for 2022?
Updated December 18, 2022
America has begun winding down its disastrous, century-long war on marijuana. We’re beating swords into plowshares. So, what’s coming in from the fields? The answer: America’s 5th most valuable crop.
The first-ever Leafly Cannabis Harvest Report, counted 13,042 cannabis farm licenses in the 11 legal states where retail stores are open. This unprecedented peek into US pot production found farmers growing 2,278 metric tons per year. It’s a mind-boggling number—enough to fill 57 Olympic-size swimming pools, or more than 11,000 dump trucks stretching more than 36 miles.
- Tracking cannabis agriculture production
- Highlights from the Cannabis Harvest Report
- Cannabis Harvest Report methodology
- What’s next for cannabis farmers?
With US state cannabis prices ranging from about $500 to $3,000 per wholesale pound, you’re looking at a crop worth $6.175 billion per year. As measured against US Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, the value of America’s legal cannabis crop ranks fifth nationwide, ahead of cotton. And yet state and federal officials generally do not track it or acknowledge it.
Tracking cannabis agriculture production
Cherry Cheesecake harvest at Sonoma Hills Farm, Petaluma, CA on October 6, 2021. (David Downs/Leafly)
Why did we count the crop? Because cannabis is as stigmatized as it is valuable.
USDA economists track annual yields, prices, and estimated values for nearly every commercial crop grown in America. But they do not track legal cannabis due to the plant’s status as a federal Schedule I drug.
Our goal with the Leafy Harvest Report is to quantify annual cannabis production in operational adult-use states, just like the USDA’s Economic Research Service does for all non-cannabis crops. This is the first time anyone’s done this, as far as we know.
Voters, lawmakers, and industry leaders need these basic facts to make informed decisions. The Harvest Report is the third in this year’s Leafly Reports series, including the Leafly Jobs Report and Leafly Seeds of Change: Strategies to create an equitable cannabis industry.
Highlights from the Cannabis Harvest Report
Leafly’s Cannabis Harvest report is one of the most comprehensive summaries on cannabis agriculture production. Here are a few of the biggest takeaways from the report.
- When compared to cannabis crops, only corn, soybeans, hay, and wheat return more wholesale revenue to American farmers annually.
- Legal cannabis is the single most valuable crop in Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Oregon.
- In each of the 11 states with adult-use retail stores operating, cannabis crop value ranks no lower than fifth—often within two years of the first legal stores opening.
- In a surprising result, Colorado’s seven-year-old legal cannabis farming industry outproduced California (627 metric tons for Colorado vs. 514 for California). But that lead might not last. After years of slow growth, California’s licensed cannabis cultivation sector is finally taking off.
Cannabis ranks 5th in value of crops produced in the US. (Leafly)
Cannabis Harvest Report methodology
Leafly News senior editors David Downs and Bruce Barcott teamed up with Beau Whitney at Whitney Economics to aggregate annual crop data from the 11 states with active, legal adult-use cannabis sales.
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We followed the USDA’s method of computing crop value by finding the average wholesale price per pound in a state and multiplying it by the state’s amount of cannabis produced. In those 11 states, we counted crops destined for both adult-use and medical outlets.
Freelance cannabis journalists Amelia Williams (Debunking Dispensary Myths, 2020) and Zack Ruskin assisted with research and reporting.
Read our full methodology on page 15 of the report.
What’s next for cannabis farmers?
Prohibition, over-regulation and over-taxation infringe on Americans’ constitutional right to pursue happiness with regard to cannabis gardening and farming.
The federal government must legalize cannabis for adults, and grandfather in legacy cannabis farmers by establishing low fees and easy licensing procedures.
The Leafly Cannabis Harvest Report summarizes the discrimination cannabis farmers face at both the federal and state levels—years of review and millions of dollars in extra expenditures—just to put seeds in the soil.
Additionally, this $6 billion agricultural sector is under-banked and under-insured. Most farmers have to pay taxes in cash. Thirty-eight state attorneys general have called on Congress to pass the SAFE Banking Act, which would increase public safety and tax compliance. Reform measures like the SAFE Banking Act, and especially the MORE Act (which would legalize federally) are long overdue.
Cannabis agriculture predates our country’s union. And a more perfect union would acknowledge and respect the power of this plant.
Harvest time has come, but U.S. cannabis farmers may not burst into cheers for the results achieved.
Although cannabis has become the sixth most valuable crop in the United States, the illegal status of the plant at the federal level doesn’t protect the industry’s farmers and affects the value of wholesale production.
The second annual harvest report published by cannabis information resource and marketplace Leafly has found that adult-use cannabis farmers grew some 2,834 metric tons of adult-use cannabis in 15 legal cannabis states in 2022.
Compared to the previous year, cannabis farmers grew 554 (24%) more metric tons of cannabis in 2022, but the crop’s value fell by around $1 billion due to the decrease in prices of legal cannabis.
The 2022 report estimates that cannabis grown in the U.S. is worth $5 billion a year, while the value of America’s legal cannabis crop ranked fifth nationwide in 2021.
“Only corn, soybeans, hay, wheat, and cotton bring in more money on a wholesale basis,” the report reads.
Leafly’s data is limited to only the production of adult-use cannabis harvested in 13,297 active legal cannabis farms in 15 legal cannabis states. So, it doesn’t consider the crops for medical cannabis and the cultivation grown by illegal operators.
The report aims to fill a void of federal and state authorities in assessing the adult-use cannabis supply chain’s value.
In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) doesn’t track adult-use cannabis production as the crop used for recreational purposes is still illegal at the federal level under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.
But even some legal cannabis states still lack to gather information about adult-use cannabis cultivation.
“The federal government isn’t alone in ignoring the value of the harvest. Many legal states still fail to capture this important information,” the report reads.
Therefore, Leafly collaborated with the cannabis and hemp business consulting, data, and economic research firm Whitney Economics, to collect data, conduct interviews, and analyze wholesale prices and classes of cannabis quality.
Leafly estimates that cannabis ranks no. 1 crop in Alaska, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, but the report highlights that regulators don’t publish production totals in two of those states.
Today, 19 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized the adult use of cannabis. In 15 states, the legalization is fully operational, and cannabis can be sold under state license, while the remaining legal cannabis states are implementing the regulations to start the sales.
The illegality of adult-use cannabis at the federal level affects cannabis farmers’ ability to perform the most basic functions of a business, such as own bank accounts, obtain crop insurance, and get loans.
As farmers can’t sell their crops directly to consumers and don’t have enough legal retail outlets for their production, prices per pound of wholesale cannabis have fallen despite the rising inflation for most products and services in the country.
For instance, California farmers increased production by 63 metric tons on the legal side, but the cannabis harvest’s value slipped from 5th to 8th in the state because of those price drops.
“The average untrimmed, dried pound might have been worth $786 wholesale in August 2022, but individual outdoor pounds have drawn prices as low as $100,” the report reads.
Furthermore, the condition of cannabis farmers has also been worsened by the local municipalities that have ‘opted out’ from allowing legal cannabis sales, “creating economic protection zones for unlicensed, illicit cannabis sellers” at the expense of the legal operators.
Overall, the report shows a scenario in which Western U.S. cannabis farmers grew too much cannabis over the last year, while Midwest and Eastern farmers didn’t grow enough to meet their region’s demand.
As a result, western farmers haven’t enough demand to sell their harvests, while Midwest and East Coast customers overpay for cannabis products.
In addition, the fact that the illegal status of cannabis at the federal level prohibits farmers from selling adult-use cannabis across interstate lines has repercussions on cannabis prices.
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