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Marijuana: Will it soon be bigger than the NFL?

Big Pot: The Commercial Takeover
Big Pot: The commercial takeover 33:24

Watch the latest CBSN Originals documentary, “Big Pot: The Commercial Takeover.”

It’s no secret that the marijuana industry is growing, but what may be shocking is just how much green the cannabis business is making. 

Legal marijuana sales are projected to hit $6.7 billion in the U.S. this year, according to ArcView Market Research, a cannabis industry research firm. That amount is expected to more than triple, to $21.8 billion, by 2020.

Making the pot business women-friendly 03:22

To put those dollar signs in perspective, the National Football League is expected to bring in about $13.3 billion in revenue in 2016, and has a target revenue of $25 billion in 2027. That’s an estimated growth of nearly $12 billion over the course of 11 years. 

By comparison, the marijuana industry’s growth would be $15.1 billion in just four years — a much faster growth rate. Meaning the legal cannabis industry could very well surpass America’s most profitable sports organization, and soon.

This massive expansion is, of course, directly tied to the legalization of pot for recreational use. Colorado and Washington were the first to do so in 2012, followed by Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia. So it’s no surprise that between 2013 and 2015, the industry’s revenue jumped from $1.5 billion to $5.4.

Marijuana votes in five states could have national impact 02:57

Weed is still criminalized at the federal level, but polls have shown for years that public opinion is moving in favor of legalization. 

That point was proven on Election Day, when four more states — California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada — voted in favor of recreational pot and three more said yes to medical use. 

The biggest and most influential state to approve recreational use was California, which already had a legal medical marijuana market for nearly 20 years. Research group Cowen & Company estimates that California’s move alone could push the national revenue to a whopping $50 billion by 2026.

Right now, the majority of legal pot sales in the U.S. come from medical marijuana, which is allowed in 28 states and D.C. as of November 8th. But ArcView’s report says the use of recreational pot is expected to drive the explosive growth of the industry, accounting for more than half of sales by 2020.

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