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California dethroned as this state now sells more legal weed

California politicians and pot advocates have long bragged that the state is home to the largest legal cannabis market in the world. Gov. Gavin Newsom made the claim twice in the past two months alone. But newly reported data is calling the Golden State’s weed dominance into question.



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Michigan now sells more legal cannabis than California, according to data shared with SFGATE by BDSA, a cannabis analytics firm. Michigan sold 22 million cannabis products in March, while California only sold 21.3 million products, according to the firm. Any individual packaging of cannabis, like flower or a vape pen, counts as a product, but user paraphernalia like rolling papers or pipes does not. 


BDSA uses point of sale data to calculate overall product sales in both states. While it’s not clear when exactly Michigan surpassed California, the sales numbers from earlier this year are the first time data has been reported showing a state other than California had sold the most cannabis products in America. 


California does still bring in more cannabis cash than any other state. California sold $1 billion worth of cannabis in the first three months of 2024, according to the latest state sales figures, which were released last week. Michigan sold $786 million worth of pot during the same period, according to that state’s cannabis regulator


FILE: In this photo illustration, marijuana joints and buds, also known as "flower," are viewed on May 24, 2024, in Los Angeles.


The disparity between sales revenue and overall products sold is likely because legal cannabis is remarkably cheap in Michigan, especially in contrast to expensive California

Deciding which state has the largest market now comes down to which metric you pay attention to: unit sales or overall revenue, both of which are often cited in measuring the size of a consumer packaged goods market. Regardless of which market is the winner, Michigan’s ability to sell more pot than California, despite having a quarter of the population, demonstrates California’s overall failure to develop its legal market, said Hirsh Jain, a cannabis consultant and advocate.


“Michigan is unquestionably better at running the legal cannabis market than California,” Jain told SFGATE. “Michigan illustrates the ways that California has squandered the opportunity.”

California’s legal cannabis market is still only capturing a fraction of total potential cannabis sales in the state, with illicit retailers selling billions of dollars of cannabis outside of the legal market. Cannabis operators have blamed the booming illicit market on high cannabis taxes and costly regulations that make legal weed expensive, while weak enforcement against illegal goods has allowed cheap, tax-free pot to be easily purchased throughout the state.

FILE: Large amounts and endless rows of marijuana crop stand ready to be harvested at Glass House Farms in Camarillo, Calif., on Feb. 9, 2023.


With some consumers still shopping in the illegal market, it’s meant California has earned less tax revenue from cannabis legalization than it expected. The first quarter of 2024 saw the lowest legal sales in nearly four years; falling cannabis sales translates to more pot business failures and less government funding. 


Michigan stands in stark contrast to this dynamic. That state has forced consumers into the legal market by strong enforcement against illegal sales and imposing one of the lowest cannabis tax rates in the country, according to Jain. As a result, legal cannabis is affordable and convenient for customers.


“In Michigan, blue-collar people can afford cannabis products at a price that is affordable to them and they don’t have to drive hours to do so,” Jain said.


Michigan has also benefited from the fact that its neighbor states do not currently have legal recreational pot sales. That likely attracts out-of-state customers into Michigan’s market, something California does not benefit from as recreational use is legal in Oregon, Nevada and Arizona. But Jain estimated these out-of-state customers contribute only 5% to 10% of the state’s overall sales.

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