Washington (AFP) – Legal marijuana is becoming more and more entrenched in the United States each year, and 2016 looks to be no exception.
In fact, some observers say it could be a “tipping point” for an ever-growing industry already worth billions of dollars.
By the end of the year, nearly a dozen states will decide whether to legalize pot — with seven to determine whether they will allow recreational use.
Already 23 out of 50 states, plus the nation’s capital, allow pot in some form, whether for medical or recreational purposes.
At the beginning of 2016, 86 percent of Americans lived in a state permitting cannabis use in some form.
As acceptance of the drug grows across the United States, so too do sales, which are expected to hit nearly $22 billion by 2020.
“It is going to be a very, very competitive market in the next five years,” said John Kagia, director of industry analytics at New Frontier, a firm specializing in the cannabis business.
While possession, sale and consumption of marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, it is permitted for recreational use in four US states: Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, plus the US capital Washington.
According to Kagia, “2016 will be the tipping point” for pot, with 11 states slated to decide whether to allow it in one form or another.
The western states of Colorado and Washington pioneered recreational marijuana legalization in 2012, and sales have increased 30 percent per year on average since then in the United States, according to New Frontier and the ArcView Group, another firm focused on analyzing the cannabis industry.
US pot sales climbed to $4.6 billion in 2014 and are expected to reach $21.8 billion in 2020, New Frontier says.
The explosion in sales is due mainly to the legalization of recreational pot in some states. Although medical marijuana represented 92 percent of all pot sales in 2014, its share of the total is expected to fall to 47 percent in just four years.