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Legal Marijuana Sales May Eclipse Movie Ticket and Snack Food Revenue by 2020

Cannabis revenue could hit $50 billion if the federal government legalized recreational sales.

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Recreational and medical marijuana sales hit between $4 and 4.5 billion last year, around the same amount that Americans spend on frozen pizza or snacks like Doritos in a year, according to new data published in this year's Marijuana Business Factbook. More money was spent on legal cannabis last year than was spent on music streaming services, drugs like Viagra and Cialis, Girl Scout cookies, or tequila.

By the end of this year, cannabis retail sales are expected to increase to between $5.1 and $6.1 billion, which will put it ahead of the $5.1 billion that is annually spent on ice cream. By 2020, legal cannabis sales could reach $10.1-13.7 billion, which would rival the $11.1 billion Americans and Canadians spend on movie tickets in a year.

While the industry is growing at a steady pace, it is not even close to touching the country's total demand for marijuana, whether purchased legally or illegally. Industry analysts have estimated that if the federal government legalized marijuana, and all states allowed retail sales, revenue could reach $45-50 billion a year.

However, even that projection doesn't top the amount of money that Americans spend on beer and cigarettes, Annual cigarette sales have hit almost $77 billion, and beer sales cracked $106 billion. Yet despite this significantly larger revenue, alcohol companies are concerned about the impact that the rapidly growing cannabis industry might have on future sales.