The pot economy is way bigger than we think.
Weed makes money—not just for dealers or pharmacists or college students with a hobby, but for the overall economy. In Colorado, legal sales of marijuana reached nearly $1 billion in 2015. In California, the industry is projected to make $7 billion a year. In Canada, one of the largest producers of medical marijuana is trying to go public, after reporting $14.1 million in annual sales.
Economists, statisticians, and consultants have tried to figure out just how big the market is. Now, an actual government body—the Canadian government—is attempting that, too. Why? Canada will likely legalize recreational weed by 2018.
The model to measure consumption
The statisticians of Canada will struggle to track the bulk of weed consumption. They need a model. It is pretty simple, made up of no more than four variables and some basic math.
For any given year, you need to know:
1. How many people are consuming marijuana
2. How many days of the year they consume it
3. How many grams they consume each day
4. The price of a gram
If, say, 100,000 people consume a gram of weed every day of the year at $8 a pop, households spent more than $292 million on pot that year.
Of course, that isn’t marijuana’s contribution to GDP. To figure that out, you also need to account for any weed smuggled out of Canada or sold overseas, and deduct any legal and illegal imports.
Finding the data in the weed
Tracking the production, sale, and use of medical marijuana shouldn’t pose much of a challenge. The market is tiny, with only 73 licensed producers in Canada. Legal producers advertise their products online, fill prescriptions by mail, and send monthly reports on output, sales, and inventories to