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Marijuana is more popular than ice cream.

The Green Rush is on in the USA, with the cannabis industry exploding in size. A new report from the Marijuana Business Daily has calculated that the estimated total demand for marijuana, including the black market, is between $45 billion and $50 billion, reports Debra Borchardt at Forbes.

Annual ice cream sales total only $5.1 billion, meaning weed is about 10 times more popular. But as most of us know, a high tide lifts all boats; rising cannabis sales can also result in rising ice cream sales, because The Munchies.

Total recreational cannabis sales in the United States, according to this estimate, also top movie ticket sales ($11.1 billion), and munchies like Doritos, Cheetos and Funyuns ($4.9 billion).

“If the federal government legalized marijuana nationwide, sales might start out at around that level but would likely quickly rise as cannabis gained mainstream acceptance and the market evolved,” according to the report.

Weed Infused Ice Cream, Anyone?

It’s not an either/or choice, you know. You can have your weed AND your ice cream. Marijuana infused ice cream is definitely a thing — and it could be a giant opportunity for enterprising entrepreneurs.

I first tried infused ice cream back in 2011 after I became medical marijuana dispensary critic for the Seattle Weeklyand I loved the stuff.

Emerald City Compassion Center, a now-departed medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle suburb Shoreline, Washington, had the normally $15 “Seymour Green’s” treat on sale for $10, and I (literally) bit.

[W]hether it was due to ice cream taking longer to metabolize, or perhaps because I didn’t have the treat on an empty stomach, the major effects of the cannabis-infused ice cream didn’t really come on until more than 90 minutes after I’d eaten it. Once the effects did happen, though, they noticeably stuck around for hours, and in fact aided me in experiencing one of the most restful nights of sleep I’ve had in months.

Cannabis Creamery, based in Sausalito, California, has been smart enough to create their own weed ice cream under the direction of ice cream expert Isaac Lappert, reports the Green Rush DailyThe product is distributed through California dispensaries, where people with medical cannabis cards can buy it.

The Creamery is doing something right. In 2014 they won the Best Dessert Edible prize in the Kush Cup. Several other companies have begun popping up in Colorado, Washington, California and Oregon, among other green friendly places throughout the country.

Even Ben & Jerry have said they’d support making cannabis-infused versions of their ice creams available where marijuana is legal. “Makes sense to me,” Ben Cohen said in 2015, reports Mary Jane Gibson at High Times. “Combine your pleasures.”

Protecting Their Profits: Tobacco and Alcohol

‘At that rate, it wouldn’t take long to surpass tobacco sales, and potentially, even alcohol sales. Maybe that’s why both Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol have spent millions to block pot legalization — in order to protect their own profits.

Legal marijuana sales, so far, both recreational and medicinal, represent only about 10 percent of the picture. Legal sales in 2016 were between $4 billion and $4.5 billion, according to the report.

Even that number beats music streaming services ($2.5 billion) and Girl Scout cookies ($776 million).

“On the recreational side of the business, the original legalized states are still posting massive growth,” said Chris Walsh, editor of the Marijuana Business Daily. “The demand for marijuana is so enormous in this country.”

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Farmworkers remove stems and leaves from newly-harvested marijuana plants, at Los Suenos Farms, one of America’s largest legal open air marijuana farms, in Avondale, Colorado
[Brennan Linsley / AP]

More Marijuana Industry Workers Than Massage Therapists

The cannabis sector now employs between 165,000 and 230,000 full-time and part-time workers, according to the report. “To put this in perspective, there are now more marijuana workers than there are bakers or massage therapists in the United States,” the report tells us. There are now more cannabis industry employees than there are dental hygienists.

Of course, all those marijuana employees spend their earnings on housing, food, travel and entertainment, helping other local businesses. Areas with legalized cannabis are experiencing a real estate boom. Tourism is bringing new travel dollars into green states.

For every dollar spent at marijuana stores, another $3 in economic benefits are created, according to the report. States and municipalities are benefitting greatly from cannabis tax receipts, using the money for things like infrastructure repairs and schools.

The picture isn’t entirely bright. The election of Donald Trump has cast a shadow over the thriving industry. Nobody — the Administration included — seems to be very clear on exactly what marijuana policies are going to be, going forward. Increased enforcement of federal law could negatively impact future sales. That’s definitely the #1 worry for cannabis companies, according to Walsh. Federal law still defines weed as a Schedule I controlled substance, as dangerous as meth and heroin.


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