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Census Bureau Begins Collecting Data About Marijuana Business Economic Activity As Market Enters Mainstream



The U.S. Census Bureau is updating its survey of American companies to better capture marijuana-related economic activity, part of an effort to “keep up with the nation’s ever-changing business landscape.”

For the first time, the 2022 Economic Census—which is being conducted right now and asks businesses about their activities from last year—includes options for respondents to identify themselves as part of the cannabis economy.

“While there are no specific questions about cannabis in the 2022 Economic Census,” the bureau said on its website this week, “options to select cannabis as a primary business activity are available to retail and wholesale establishments.”

Other survey responses attempt to capture the value of marijuana goods and services produced by American businesses, for example cannabis-infused foods, beverages and topicals. It even gives specific examples of such products, including cannabis face creams, tinctures, shampoos, cakes and pies.

“Measuring the growth and changes in the economy will ensure these topics are captured in key measures of economic activity” the bureau said, “and that the economic census remains relevant in an ever-changing world.”

In other words, the federal government not only recognizes that products like cannabis-infused gummies are currently being bought and sold on American markets—it also wants data on that activity.

A selection of Census questions asking about retail products that may include cannabis

U.S. Census Bureau

The Census Bureau had already taken steps to build a better understanding of the marijuana market under federal prohibition, including its 2021 decision to begin collecting data on cannabis tax revenue that states are generating. States are now asked to provide that information as part of annual and quarterly reports that they send to the bureau.

These shifts echo other changes in how the federal government is attempting to measure and make sense of marijuana business as a part of the overall economy. For example, officials last year added cannabis businesses as an official designation under the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), which is used by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and others to categorize and compile employment data.

Cannabis business codes were added to NAICS following a 2021 policy recommendation from a committee that included the Census Bureau.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department also said last year that it plans to start collecting marijuana business data as part of its role in combating money laundering.

As for the updated Census business surveys, cannabis-related options now appear on a number of the economic census’s nearly 800 available survey forms. Perhaps most relevant is the form for “Tobacco and Marijuana and Cannabis Stores,” which pertains to retailers, but marijuana also appears on surveys for food manufacturers and various other business types.

Cannabis isn’t the only new update to the economic survey. Other changes this year include the addition of electric vehicles and cryptocurrency as products lines, the bureau said, as well as revenue from telemedicine.

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Ben Adlin, a senior editor at Marijuana Moment, has been covering cannabis and other drug policy issues professionally since 2011. He was previously a senior news editor at Leafly, an associate editor at the Los Angeles Daily Journal and a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. He lives in Washington State.


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