Industry Overview

Legal cannabis is the fastest-growing
industry in the United States

The cannabis industry includes legal operations concerning marijuana and it's non-intoxicating cousin, hemp. It's helpful to break the industry down into 4 components:
Overview of different cannabis industries

    Legal in 10 U.S. states, recreational marijuana refers to cannabis used to intentionally experience its intoxicating and mind-altering effects.


    Medical marijuana refers to the use of cannabis as a physician-recommended therapy for treating certain health conditions and symptoms. It is legal in 32 U.S. states.


    CBD oil is a non-intoxicating nutritional supplement made from hemp that is used to promote wellness. It is legal under U.S. Federal Law. Individual states may enact their own laws around hemp-derived CBD.

  • Hemp

    Hemp is a versatile industrial crop with more than 25,000 product applications. Over 30 states have established hemp cultivation for pilot programs under the Farm Bill.

Industry Size & Growth

  • Current





    U.S. recreational sales are expected to grow at an incredible 18.4% CAGR, from $3.2 billion to $12.5 billion in 2025.

  • 2017




    Medical MARIJUANA

    Sales of U.S. medical marijuana are expected to grow at an 11.8% CAGR, from $5.1 billion in 2017 to an estimated $12.5 billion in 2025.

  • Current





    The nation’s CBD market ie estimated to grow by 700% by 2020, from $202 million to $2.1 billion in that time.

  • 2017





    U.S. hemp-based products are expected to grow from $820 million in 2017 to a $1.9 billion by 2022, with CAGR of 14.4%.

Across the globe, we have seen the marijuana industry massively expand as more countries legalize cannabis. The market shows no signs of slowing, and industry analysts expect the worldwide legal marijuana market to grow from its current value of $9.2 billion to an incredible $57 billion by 2027.

In the United States, 32 states have legalized marijuana in some capacity, generating new economic and employment opportunities throughout the legal marijuana industry. With more states expected to advance cannabis legalization measures in the coming years, and federal lawmakers considering reform legislation, more Americans will soon be able to access legal cannabis.

Marijuana industry experts estimate that the nation’s medical and recreational marijuana market is currently valued at $8.3 billion, and project that it will surge to $25 billion by 2025. In four years time, the U.S. cannabis industry is expected to deliver as many as 340,000 full-time jobs, and make a nearly $80 billion economic impact.

Image of marijuana plant canopy growth

Cannabis Laws

U.S. cannabis laws have not kept up with evolving public attitudes and medical research findings. On a federal level, cannabis has been prohibited since 1970. The Controlled Substances Act, signed into law by Richard Nixon, classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, a category reserved for substances with 1) a high potential for abuse and 2) no currently accepted medical use in treatment.

At the state level, however, a growing social acceptance of marijuana and the greater recognition of its medical purposes has made an impact on cannabis policy over the past two decades. Despite federal prohibition, a majority of U.S. states have made their own laws permitting the legal possession and use of marijuana. Beginning with California in 1996, 32 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized medical marijuana. In 2012, Colorado and Washington state became the first states to vote to legalize recreational marijuana, and since then eight more states plus Washington, D.C. have followed.

CBD oil products made from imported hemp are legal under U.S. federal law. However, individual state laws are dynamic and fluid. Individual states may enact their own laws governing hemp-derived CBD.

Hemp can only be grown domestically as part of government-approved research and pilot programs in the 30-plus states that have established hemp cultivation. It is federally legal to manufacture, distribute, and possess any commercial products created using imported hemp.

Key Legislation

Federal and State laws for legal marijuana industry

States with medical marijuana laws have been able to operate without fear of federal interference thanks to the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment. Originally passed in 2014 as part of the spending bill, this appropriations rider prohibits the U.S. Department of Justice from using federal funds to prevent states from implementing their own medical marijuana laws. It also protects patients using medical marijuana in legal states from facing federal prosecution. While this amendment is a step forward for the marijuana industry, it must be renewed each year with each new budget; leaving it vulnerable to being cut out at some point..

Farm Bill

Once a crucial commodity for Americans, hemp is gradually returning to the U.S. thanks to the 2014 Farm Bill. Signed into law by Barack Obama, the Farm Bill includes a section that legalized the growing and cultivating of industrial hemp for research and pilot program purposes. More than 30 states have since taken advantage, and nearly 10,000 acres of hemp were planted on domestic fields in 2016.

Fight for Expanding Legalization

With support for legalization at a record high, there is a collective push to reform cannabis policy nationwide. There are more marijuana reform bills in the 115th Congress than ever before, and the movement toward legalization looks promising.

With that said, there are still many prominent and influential opponents to loosening cannabis laws. While weakened, some stigmas and misconceptions surrounding cannabis use and the marijuana industry still remain.

In what is generally recognized as a boost for the legal cannabis industry, Donald Trump in November 2018 requested the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. While likely asked to resign for unrelated reasons, Sessions is a longtime anti-cannabis politician who had actively worked to interfere with state legal operations since assuming office in February 2017.

Supporting cannabis reform

Cannabis supporters in Congress
  • Cannabis reform supporter - Cory Booker
    Cory Booker
  • Cannabis industry supporter - Kamala Harris
    Kamala Harris
  • Marijuana industry supporter - Bernie Sanders
    Bernie Sanders
  • Supporters of the legal marijuana market - Kirsten Gillibrand
    Kirsten Gillibrand
  • Supporters of the mmj industry - Chuck Schumer
    Chuck Schumer
  • Supporters of the cannabis industry - Cory Gardner
    Cory Gardner
  • Marijuana industry supporters - Elizabeth Warren
    Elizabeth Warren
  • Supporters of the marijuana industry - Earl Blumanauer
    Earl Blumenauer
  • Mitch McConnell
    Mitch McConnell
  • Supporters of the cannabis industry - Marijuana Policy Project
    Marijuana Policy Project
  • Supporters of cannabis industries - National organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
    National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
  • MMJ industry supporters - Students for Sensible Drug Policy
    Students for Sensible Drug Policy
  • Supporters of the legal marijuana industry - Drug Policy Alliance
    Drug Policy Alliance
  • Supporters of medical marijuana industry overview - Americans for Safe Access
    Americans for Safe Access
  • Support for the pot industry - Marijuana Majority
    Marijuana Majority
  • Supporters for cannabis industry growth - Sanjay Gupta
    Sanjay Gupta
  • Supporters of cannabis reform - Tom Angell
    Tom Angell

Opposing cannabis reform

  • Opposers of cannabis reform - Jeff Sessions
    Jeff Sessions
  • Opposers of cannabis reform - Smart Approaches to Marijuana
    Smart Approaches to Marijuana

The case for marijuana legalization

Eliminates wasted money and resources on unsuccessful war on drugs

Helps address damage of over-incarceration caused by drug and criminal justice policies

Prohibition has failed to notably reduce marijuana use

The case for cannabis industry reform and marijuana legalization

Increases access to cannabis for medical purposes

Sales transition from illegal to legal market, crippling criminal and violent operations

Provides the economy with new revenue from legal sales.

Where Donald Trump Stands

Donald Trump has been unclear about his thoughts around cannabis reform, professing both strong opposition to recreational marijuana legalization and support for states to decide the policy for themselves. He has said he would “probably” support the STATES Act, which would ensure protections to state marijuana industries.

The Marijuana Industry - Where Donald Trump Stands

Cannabis in Healthcare

Policy makers and the medical community as a whole have increasingly come to acknowledge the therapeutic properties of cannabis and the role the marijuana industry could play in improving public health.

Internationally, the United Nations has called for an in-depth review of how cannabis is scheduled throughout the world. In November, its global health agency -- the World Health Organization (WHO) -- will consider analyses of the epidemiological, pharmacological, chemistry, toxicology, and therapeutic impacts of cannabis and potentially prompt reform efforts to expand access to medical cannabis across the globe.

An overwhelming 93% of American voters support the legalization of medical marijuana.

More than 23,000 studies have investigated the medicinal potential of cannabis, revealing its possibility as a safe and effective treatment option for:

Cannabis has shown to also provide anti-inflammatory and healing effects for serious conditions like:

Just last year, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) summarized these therapeutic benefits in a rigorous 395-page research review of 10,000 cannabis studies.

The evidence is overwhelming that marijuana can relieve certain types of pain, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms caused by such illnesses as multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS — or by the harsh drugs sometimes used to treat them. And it can do so with remarkable safety. Indeed, marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs that physicians prescribe every day.

Dr. Joycelyn Elders, MD

Dr. Joycelyn Elders, MD

Former U.S. Surgeon General

I have found in my study of these patients that cannabis is really a safe, effective and non-toxic alternative to many standard medications. There is no such thing as an overdose.

Dr. Joycelyn Elders, MD

Philip Denney, MD

Many of the chronically ill have successfully sought relief with the use of medical cannabis, an age-old remedy that now shows real scientific efficacy. Hundreds of thousands of the sick have replaced disabling narcotics and other psychotropic medications with nontoxic and benign cannabis.

Dr. Joycelyn Elders, MD

Jay Cavanaugh, PhD

National Director of the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis (AAMC)

Cannabis or marijuana has been used medicinally for centuries. It has been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of symptoms and conditions.


The American Nurses Association (ANA) March 19, 2004

Position Statement: Providing Patients Safe Access to Therapeutic Marijuana/Cannabis

These groundbreaking findings have prompted several notable medical and advocacy organizations to support rescheduling cannabis under federal law to facilitate more research and/or encourage greater access. Groups such as the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), the American Medical Association (AMA), the American College of Physicians (ACP), the American Patient Rights Association (APRA), the American Nurses Association (ANA), and the American Legion have made public calls for more investigation into cannabis-based medicines.

  • Supporters of further research in MMJ industry - AOA
  • Supporters of further research in marijuana industry - AMA
  • Supporters of further research in the marijuana industry - ANA
  • Supporters of further research for cannabis industry - ACP
  • Supporters of further research for the cannabis industry - APRA
  • Supporters of further research for marijuana industry - AL

What’s Next?

The legal cannabis industry continues to be poised for big growth, as Americans increasingly grow more comfortable with cannabis and legal and regulatory barriers are removed.

  • 68%

    A 2018 nationwide poll by public policy research and advocacy organization Center for American Progress (CAP) and research firm GBA Strategies reveals nationwide support for marijuana to now be at an all-time high.

  • 80%

    In 2014, WedMD/Medscape surveyed 1,544 doctors in the U.S. and found that eight of 10 doctors say that medical marijuana should be legalized nationally and that it can deliver benefits.

  • 183M

    An estimated 183 million people used marijuana in 2015, according to a report from the United Nations. This counted for 3.8% of the global population and makes cannabis the most commonly used drug in the world. Over 94 million people in the U.S. have self-reported using marijuana at least once.

Potential Reform at the Federal Level

It looks very much as though the political stars may be finally aligned to see meaningful cannabis law reform at the federal level, although experts are skeptical that Congress will take any significant action to overhaul laws before the November midterms.

Nevertheless, cannabis legislation has been introduced by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle over the past year:

  • The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, introduced by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) would remove marijuana from the federal controlled substances list, effectively decriminalize marijuana and allowing states to decide how it should be regulated.
  • The STATES Act, introduced by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), would not alter cannabis’s scheduling under federal law, but would prevent the federal government from interfering with state-legal cannabis operations.
  • The Hemp Farming Act of 2018, from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), would legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity and allow states to regulate hemp production. It has been included in the new Senate version of the Farm Bill, which will be put to a floor vote soon.
  • The REFER Act of 2018, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA13), would prohibit the federal government from enforcing federal cannabis law in states where marijuana has been legalized.

Full legalization just years away?

Last year, a research report from investment bank Ackrell Capital predicted that legal marijuana would expand to all 50 U.S. states by 2020.

Visit our marijuana news page regularly for the latest updates about the marijuana industry, medical and recreational legalization efforts, cannabis research findings, and more.