Legal and Illegal North American Cannabis Sales Outpace Starbucks, McDonald’s in 2016

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Total combined sales for legal and illegal cannabis sales in North America reached $53.3 billion last year, more than Starbucks and McDonald’s combined, according to Arcview Market Research figures outlined by Business Insider. Illegal sales made up 87 percent of total cannabis sales in 2016, down from 90 percent the year prior. The legal market gained 30 percent from 2015, earning $6.7 billion in North America last year.

Troy Dayton, Arcview Market Research CEO, explained that unlike other consumer industries the cannabis market “doesn’t need to create demand” for new products “it just needs to move demand for an already widely-popular product into legal channels.”

“The enormous amount of existing, if illicit, consumer spending sets cannabis apart from most other major consumer-market investment opportunities throughout history,” Dayton said in the report.

Yet, despite not needing to create demand, the legal cannabis industry is full of product innovations – such as edibles, topicals, and sprays – which, in Colorado made up 45 percent of total legal sales in the third quarter of 2016. In the first quarter of 2014, those products represented 30 percent of the state’s legal sales. Dayton said that “variety” is “one of the major reasons” people move to legal markets in states where it’s permitted.


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