How big is California’s legal marijuana market? Think a small nation

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(Photo by spiritofamerica/stock.adobe.com)

Even with the recent financial and tax woes roiling California’s marijuana industry, there’s little doubt that it remains the world’s largest cannabis market.

The state will ring up nearly $5.9 billion in legal recreational and medical marijuana sales in 2023, the recently published MJBiz Factbook estimates.

To put that in perspective, marijuana sales in California could support the economy of a small island nation.

For example, the gross domestic product for the Caribbean island nation of Barbados will total $6.1 billion in 2023, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The IMF also projects the GDP for the South Pacific island of Fiji and will total about $5.4 billion this year.

The sheer scope of California’s cannabis market is not surprising, given that the state’s GDP for 2022 ($3.6 trillion) would rank fifth worldwide if it were a country, somewhere between Germany ($4.2 trillion) and India ($3.2 trillion).

In addition, marijuana has taken its place as one of California’s leading agricultural products, rivaling or exceeding two key crops.

In 2022, grape production in the state – known for its world-class wine industry – was valued at $5.5 billion, followed by almonds at $3.5 billion.

Most other U.S. marijuana markets are a fraction of California’s sales.

Michigan, the No. 2 American marijuana market in terms of sales, is projected to bring in about half as much in consumer purchases than California will this year – $3.1 billion in combined recreational and medical marijuana sales.

California won’t see much competition until U.S. states with large populations ramp up their markets, such as New York, or, in the case of Pennsylvania, approve the sale of recreational marijuana.

Of course, the same could be said for the opening of legal recreational markets in countries such as Germany.

Legal cannabis sales data in the international market is hard to come by.

But Canada, arguably the largest legal adult-use market outside the U.S., accounted for only $3.4 billion in recreational sales in 2022.

Given that a picture is worth a thousand words, here is an informational graphic showing just how big California’s marijuana market is:

Chart comparing California marijuana market size.

Andrew Long can be reached at andrew.long@mjbizdaily.com.