Marijuana is top U.S. cash crop, pro-legalization analysis says
For years, activists in the marijuana-legalization movement have claimed that cannabis is America's biggest cash crop. Now they're citing government...
Los Angeles Times
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — 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 the market value of pot produced in the United States exceeds $35 billion — far more than the crop value of such staples as corn, soybeans and hay.
California is responsible for more than one-third of the cannabis harvest, with an estimated production of $13.8 billion, exceeding the value of the state's grapes, vegetables and hay combined. Marijuana is the top cash crop in a dozen states, the report states.
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, 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.
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 United States, 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 with the $2,000- to $4,000-a-pound street value often cited by law-enforcement agencies.
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.
"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," Gettman said.
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."
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.