SACRAMENTO, CALIF. For years, activists in the marijuana legalization movement have claimed that cannabis is America's biggest cash crop. Now they're citing government statistics to prove it.
A report released Monday by a marijuana public policy analyst contends that the market value of pot produced in the United States exceeds $35 billion - far more than the crop value of such heartland staples as corn, soybeans and hay.
California is responsible for more than one-third of the cannabis harvest, with an estimated production of $13.8 billion.
The report estimates that marijuana production has increased tenfold in the past quarter-century despite an anti-drug effort by law enforcement.
Jon Gettman, the report's author, is a public policy consultant and leading proponent of the push to drop marijuana from the federal list of hard-core Schedule 1 drugs, such as heroin and LSD.
While withholding judgment on the study's findings, federal anti-drug officials took exception to Gettman's conclusions.
"Coca is Colombia's largest cash crop, and that hasn't worked out for them," said Tom Riley, a spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.