Over the next decade, the legal marijuana industry is expected to grow by leaps and bounds. Last year, for instance, the legal weed industry generated $10.9 billion globally. But by the end of the upcoming decade, various estimates on Wall Street are calling for between $50 billion and $200 billion in annual worldwide sales.
No matter what investment bank proves closest with its 2030 sales forecast, one prognostication remains the same across the board. Namely, that the United States will account for anywhere from a third to perhaps more than half of all global weed sales. And leading this expected charge is the Golden State, California.
California, often viewed as a cannabis crown jewel, has its fair share of problems
According to estimates from the latest "State of the Legal Cannabis Markets" report from the duo of Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics, California should account for about a quarter of all U.S. sales by 2024. It's estimates like this that have vertically integrated multistate operators scrambling to enter California.
But here's an interesting fact you may have overlooked: Despite legalizing recreational marijuana in November 2016, and commencing adult-use weed sales as of Jan. 1, 2018, aggregate legal marijuana sales in the state actually declined by $500 million in 2018 to $2.5 billion. With estimates calling for $3.1 billion in sales in 2019, it means that legal pot revenue in the state will have gone virtually nowhere from the $3 billion in medical cannabis sales tallied in 2017, the year prior to recreational marijuana sales beginning.
The biggest problem with California is that its regulations are highly restrictive to success. For one, the Golden State has been slow to approve the licensing and opening of physical dispensaries. This has allowed black-market marijuana to continue thriving in what should be a fast-growing legal market.
Secondly, California, like most states that have passed recreational cannabis laws, has allowed its individual jurisdictions to decide whether or not cannabis shops are allowed to open up. To date, approximately 4 out of 5 jurisdictions have chosen to keep their proverbial gates closed on legal retail recreational weed stores.
Lastly, it's a tax issue. Between state tax, local tax, wholesale tax, and the excise tax on cannabis, certain cities could be passing up to a 45% tax on cannabis sales to consumers. This makes it impossible for legal marijuana to compete on price with black-market product.
It's for these reasons that I'd suggest three other U.S. states look far more intriguing than California for the U.S. marijuana industry.
Perhaps it's only fitting that the home of Sin City, Nevada, might be the most exciting and lucrative cannabis market of them all. By 2024, "State of the Legal Cannabis Markets" foresees Nevada as the seventh-largest state in terms of annual sales, at $1.41 billion. More importantly, per-capita spending on marijuana in Nevada is projected to be the highest in the country at $415.57. That's more than double California's per-capita cannabis spending of $172.08 by 2024.
Arguably the most intriguing pot stock in Nevada is Planet 13 Holdings (OTC:PLNH.F), a small-cap multistate dispensary operator that's focused on creating the most unique consumer experience in the industry. Planet 13's flagship SuperStore in Las Vegas will span 112,000 square feet, when complete. For added context, this is about 7,000 square feet larger than the average Walmart. And when finished, it'll contain a pizzeria, coffee shop, events center, and consumer-facing processing site, in addition to the most diverse product selection. Essentially, it's the go-to store for any cannabis enthusiast.
The personalization in the SuperStore, coupled with the generous use of technology and self-pay kiosks throughout the store, appears to be playing out well for Planet 13. Since opening its doors in November, the SuperStore has seen average foot traffic per day nearly double, all while the average ticket per paying customer is up nearly $15.
Back in late June, the Land of Lincoln, Illinois, made history by becoming the first state to legalize recreational marijuana entirely through the legislative process. Further, HB 1438 allows for the expungement of the criminal records of nearly 800,000 residents in the state who possessed or purchased up to 30 grams of cannabis (without violence).
More importantly, the Illinois marijuana market is expected to mature quickly, with sales rising to an estimated $1.14 billion by 2024. That would make the Land of Lincoln a top 10 state in terms of annual sales. Should this estimate come to fruition, a company like Cresco Labs (OTC:CRLBF) could be a prime beneficiary.
As you might imagine, all eyes are probably on Cresco's pending all-stock acquisition of Origin House. Origin House is a licensed distributor of marijuana in California, so there's the expectation that Cresco Labs will see a quick uptick in revenue once it can get its products into more than 500 statewide dispensaries. But it'd be wrong to ignore Cresco's position in Illinois. The company currently has five pot dispensaries in Illinois, but has plans to open the state maximum of 10 by the time recreational marijuana sales commence on Jan. 1, 2020. It's worked hard to develop a brand presence in the state, and should benefit once the green flag waves.
Last, but not least, the Sunshine State could be a far more intriguing source of growth for the industry than California. The "State of the Legal Cannabis Markets" report projects that Florida will slot in as the third-highest-selling state by 2024, at $1.9 billion. Maybe most interesting, all of these sales are expected to come from medical marijuana.
If there's a cannabis stock that's benefited most from Florida's ascent as a force in the weed business, it's multistate operator Trulieve Cannabis (OTC:TCNNF). Though it has assets in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California, Trulieve has focused most of its attention on its home market. To date, the company has opened 37 Florida locations, which is more than any of its competitors. Staying so close to the vest has allowed Trulieve to effectively build its brand, as well as keep its costs reasonably low. As a result Trulieve is one of the very few marijuana stocks that's already profitable.
There's also the real possibility that Florida could consider legalizing recreational marijuana. For those who may not realize, changes to cannabis' legality in Florida requires amending the state's constitution. In other words, any ballot measure would require a solid 60% support to pass, rather than a simple majority. But if Florida does go fully green in 2020, or shortly thereafter, Trulieve would be set up to succeed.