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Marijuana top cash crop; public policy analyst calls for legalization to aid U.S. economy

Thursday, December 28, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: marijuana, cash crop, medicinal marijuana

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(NewsTarget) The biggest cash crop in the United States is not corn or wheat, according to public policy analyst Jon Gettman, as marijuana produces more annual revenue than those crops combined; nearly $35 billion.

The report by medical marijuana advocate and former National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws head Gettman also stated that California, Tennessee, Kentucky, Hawaii and Washington produce more than $1 billion worth of the plant each.

The approximately $35 billion figure in the report was based on government reports made between 2002 and 2005, in which estimated marijuana production levels in the United States were at more than 10,000 metric tons a year. Gettman used a national survey of marijuana retail prices between 2001 and 2005, which put the cost at between $2,400 and $3,000, and calculated the price per pound of marijuana at $1,606.

According to the report, the revenue generated by corn in the United States from 2003 to 2005 was $23.3 billion a year; soybeans produced $17.6 billion; $12.2 billion came from hay production; nearly $11.1 billion worth of vegetables were produced; and $7.4 billion was made from wheat.

U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy spokesperson Tom Riley said he could not confirm Gettman's figures, but said illegal drug use was a "serious part of the economy." The office estimated illegal drug use overall was at $200 billion a year. Still, Riley said he did not think there was a realistic economic argument in favor of marijuana legalization, calling it an "inherently harmful activity," and added that more U.S. teens were being treated for marijuana dependency than for all other drugs combined.

Gettman made an unsuccessful attempt to get marijuana taken off a list of drugs with no medical value for six years, and hopes that this new information will show that the United States is failing to control marijuana through criminalizing its cultivation.

"Marijuana has become a pervasive and ineradicable part of the economy of the United States," he said. "The contribution of this market to the nation's gross domestic product is overlooked in the debate over effective control.

"Like all profitable agricultural crops marijuana adds resources and value to the economy," Gettman added. "The focus of public policy should be how to effectively control this market through regulation and taxation in order to achieve immediate and realistic goals, such as reducing teenage access."


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