Image of prescription marijuana via Shutterstock

Move over technology, there’s a hot new industry in town and it’s all green. New research shows that legal marijuana is among the fastest-growing markets in the United States, on track to outpace smartphones in the very near future. With recent polls showing that 58 percent of Americans support legalization, many feel the days of marijuana prohibition are numbered. Regardless of your feelings about the drug’s moral repercussions (since you’ll be hard pressed to prove any physical consequences), it’s hard to argue with money.

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According to a report obtained exclusively by The Huffington Post, more than $1.43 billion worth of legal marijuana will be sold in 2013, mostly to patients of medical marijuana dispensaries. Beginning in 2014, adults over the age of 21 in Colorado and Washington will be able to legally grow and purchase the plant for recreational purposes as well. Colorado alone is predicted to add $359 million to its existing market in 2014.

The report, the second edition of the State of Legal Marijuana Markets, predicts that legal marijuana’s presence in the open market will “grow by 64 percent to $2.34 billion next year. By comparison, recent figures show the U.S. smartphone market expanded by 46 percent from 2012 to 2013,” explains HuffPo. Although it’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison, the smartphone market is growing at an annual rate of just 7.3 percent.

In a time when state governments are strapped for cash, and the feds are desperate for any way to gather extra revenue (a fair tax on the ultra wealthy is apparently a no-go), it will be hard for states to ignore the cash crop sitting right under their noses.

Besides tax revenue, there’s the obvious boost to local economies through the formation of new businesses that create much-needed local jobs. “Entrepreneurs and private investors are flocking to cannabis markets,” said Steve Berg, a former managing director of Wells Fargo Bank and editor of the report. “Those who really understand market dynamics will reap large rewards.”

Via Huffington Post

Image via O’Dea