Well before California legalized recreational weed in November, the state was already known as a major pot-producer, huge in fact.
According to the Orange County Register, the Golden State’s weed crop is not only the most valuable product in the nation’s biggest agricultural state, it is way ahead of the next most popular crop—by a long shot.
California’s mild climate and year-round farming made the rich Central Valley the breadbasket of the world at one time and provided the U.S. with fruits and vegetables that grew in very few other places.
The same went for the Napa and Imperial Valleys and the dry garlic fields of Fresno.
But now the biggest crop in California’s diverse cornucopia is marijuana.
Using data from the state Department of Food and Agriculture, as well as its own calculation of in-state pot production, the Orange County Register places the value of California’s weed crop above the top five leading agricultural commodities combined.
Here are the top commodities and their worth compared with the estimated amount for marijuana:
1. Marijuana — $23.3 billion
2. Milk — $6.28 billion
3. Almonds — $5.33 billion
4. Grapes — $4.95 billion
5. Cattle, Calves — $3.39 billion
6. Lettuce — $2.25 billion
The figure of $23.3 billion for the pot crop is nearly three times what Arcview Market Research estimated that California’s legal market would be after legalization of recreational pot.
The Register reported that one indication of how much marijuana is grown in California is the number of plants seized by law enforcement on federal lands. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime calculates that those seizures account for 10 to 20 percent of the weed produced.
There is just so much land to grow on.
According to the California Protected Area Database, the total area of protected land in California is 49 million acres, or 46.7 percent of the state (not including easements), which is a huge amount for the most populous state in the country. This includes 1.3 million acres of state park land and more than 20 million acres of national forest and wilderness.
California pot producers are obviously growing billions of dollars worth of weed in these areas and on private land that is not being accounted for by the state’s legal market.
But, with most of the weed on the U.S. market coming from California, as Alternet pointed out, the phenomenon of growing in national parks or on protected land is not going to stop until people in states like Illinois, Florida and New York can grow their own.
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