The Wide, Wide World of Weed
In these strife-torn times, there seems to be at least one thing that unites humanity around the world: the need to get high.
Research firm BDSA forecasts that global cannabis sales will grow to $55.9 billion in 2026, for a five-year compound annual growth rate of more than 17%. BDSA determined that legal U.S. sales exceeded $17.5 billion in 2020, for year-over-year growth of 46%.
In a separate report published September 13, research firm New Frontier Data found that roughly 268 million people around the world consumed cannabis at least once during 2020, up from 263 million in 2019.
Asia is the world’s most populous region, so it stands to reason that the region is home to the highest number of marijuana consumers, at an estimated 93.8 million. However, Asia has comparatively lower cannabis usage rates, giving it the world’s largest number but lowest density of cannabis consumers.
The survey measured adult populations (ages 15 plus). North America, with an estimated 49.6 million cannabis consumers, is home to the highest rates of cannabis use. The following chart tells the global story:
The U.S and Canada top the list of cannabis use largely because of their affluent and socially tolerant societies. Marijuana legalization has made huge strides in both democracies, making them beacons for pot advocates and incubators for canna-businessses.
Canada has been in the vanguard of the marijuana revolution. In October 2018, the Great White North legalized on the federal level the possession and use of recreational marijuana. Canada was the first G7 nation to take this step. In 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana.
In the U.S., a slew of state-level ballot initiatives during the general election of November 2020, and in the second quarter of 2021, brought the total to 18 states where high-THC cannabis is legal for adult use, and 38 where high-THC cannabis is legal for medical use.
A combined 141 million Americans live across 18 adult-use states, and 239 million live across 38 medical-use states, which means 43% of American adults currently have access to legal adult-use cannabis, and 72% of Americans have access to legal medical cannabis.
Mexico recently became the latest country to fully legalize possession and use for adults, a move that will serve to spur similar developments in other countries, especially Latin America. Mexico is now positioning itself as a low-cost alternative to marijuana that’s grown in the U.S. and Canada.
In the U.S., as the coronavirus pandemic continues to exert economic and social damage, nearly half of American cannabis consumers reported using cannabis to alleviate stress and anxiety. The rise of the work-at-home culture also is pushing marijuana sales higher. Hence, the robust rise year-to-date of marijuana equities. In the marijuana sector, rising revenues and profits are translating into higher share prices.
According to a separate survey released in August by Gallup, nearly half of American adults said they’ve tried smoking cannabis. More than one in 10 reported that they actively smoke marijuana on a regular basis.
Gallup has been polling Americans about their marijuana consumption habits since 1969, when only 4% reported trying marijuana. For decades, the percentage of Americans who said they’ve actually tried pot hovered in the 30% range. As an increasing number of states legalize marijuana, weed is becoming more of a commonplace habit.
The key impetus for marijuana legalization around the world has been medical. National programs for legal medical marijuana represent a crazy quilt of different rules and regs, but the result is the same: greater access to pot and with it, more ways for businesses and investors to make money.
In 2020 globally, an estimated 4.4 million active medical cannabis patients accessed legalized, high-THC products. The number of patients in those programs is projected to grow by more than 2 million over the next five years, to a combined 6.5 million worldwide by 2025.
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