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The Mighty U.S. Marijuana Market

On August 30, 2023 the US Department of Health and Human Services reached out to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) requesting a reclassification of marijuana. This recent initiative to ease “restrictions on marijuana by reclassifying it as a Schedule III substance” is a clear sign that the federal government is no longer willing to pass on the opportunity to capitalize on the billions of dollars of tax revenues that are currently staying within the coffers of the states that have legalized medical or recreational use of marijuana. The potential growth of this market, under current state-driven conditions, is projected to reach $34 billion by the end of 2023 and potentially reach $54 billion by the year 2027, surpassing the hay, cotton, wheat, vegetables and melons, as well as the fruits and nuts markets in the United States. If projections are correct, marijuana would become the third largest agricultural crop after cotton and soybeans, which recorded revenues of $88.6 and $62.4 billion respectively in the year 2022.

Currently 38 states, three territories and the District of Columbia have legalized medical use of marijuana. Meanwhile, 23 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands have legalized recreational use of marijuana. If the Biden administration is able to push forward this reclassification effort, the market would potentially double in size and continue to exponentially grow. More so if further deregulation allowed the financial sector to fully become involved with this emerging lucrative sector, and if the recreational consumption experience becomes more intertwined and harmonized with the daily lives and routines of consumers.

Doubling the market would mean surpassing the $100 billion in revenues by the year 2027.That would be close to the equivalent of today’s U.S. beer market which reached a total of $121 billion in 2023.The mighty U.S. marijuana market could potentially be a game changer across the national economy, helping revive local economies impacted by the globalization of the market.

Not only would the local economies be impacted by the reclassification effort, the repercussions would be regional and global as well. The federal legalization of marijuana would inevitably force the Mexican economy to adapt to the new reality, and it would also pressure the Canadian government to reevaluate its own federal legalization strategy. Potentially, the North American economic bloc would transform into an integrated and holistic market, reshaping the business landscape at the local level as production and supply chains integrate across the three countries.

Legalization at the federal level would also force a reclassification of marijuana across the multilateral system, resulting in changes in legislation across the nation state system, as other economies shift directions internally at the regulatory level in order to also capitalize on the growth of production resulting from the growing demand, not only in the United States, but across the world.

The end of the taboo of marijuana which started, and perhaps will also end, in the United States will also result in the redefinition and realignment of the goals and objectives of the War on Drugs. This, would in turn, link global producers of marijuana with global consumers, eventually constructing, from the bottom up, global supply chains and reconfiguring old contraband routes of illegal narcotics into corridors of international trade.

Therefore, the recent initiative by the Department of Health and Human Services is of extreme importance. It could represent the end of a temporal and spatial dimension of the history of marijuana. Additionally, it could significantly alter the fiber of the U.S. economy, and it could have tremendous repercussions across the global market system, and more particularly within our own economic bloc.

Marijuana may become a key engine of economic development in the 21st century, not only for the United States, but also for Mexico and Canada, and for many nations across the global market system. Sadly, in the twentieth century, this opportunity that was taken away from developing nations that wanted to capitalize on this commodity. It is curious that as the opportunity resurfaces, the capabilities are in the hands of advanced industrial nations such as the United States and Canada. This creates an unbalanced outcome for countries in the global South as it a perpetuation of the injustices of capitalist economic development patterns under the current dynamics of globalization.


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