The marijuana business in the U.S. is growing like a weed.

Nationwide, legal sales of marijuana reached $5.7 billion in 2015, up from $4.6 billion the previous year, according to a report from ArcView Market Research. For 2016, the market is projected to grow to $7.1 billion. And by 2020, ArcView says, sales of legal marijuana in the U.S. could top $22 billion.

As it stands now, about two-thirds of America’s marijuana crop — the legal and illegal kinds — is grown outdoors, according to Mother Jones magazine.

Magnets for Marijuana

Data from 2006 shows California is the leading state for outdoor production of marijuana, followed by Tennessee, Kentucky and Hawaii, according to the Bulletin for Cannabis Reform.

However, the marijuana-growing landscape likely has shifted since then, as four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — along with the District of Columbia have legalized both recreational and medical marijuana in recent years. This November, voters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will vote on legalizing recreational marijuana, CNN says.

marijuana plant

Given the rising national interest in pot and our obsession here at LawnStarter with plants of all kinds — including the weeds that invade our lawns — we thought it would be cool to pinpoint where the best places are to grow weed (the kind you smoke) outdoors.

In Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and the District of Columbia, adults can grow marijuana for recreational use, says Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, a group that favors pro-marijuana laws. In these four places, laws don’t make a distinction between indoor and outdoor marijuana growth, he says.

As for growing medical marijuana, it’s permitted in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, according to Armentano.

Editor’s note: We don’t condone growing marijuana indoors or outdoors in places where it’s illegal. Our ranking is meant to be a conversation starter rather than a blueprint for where to grow marijuana.

Where the Weed Grows Best

To compile our ranking of the 12 Best Cities for Growing Marijuana Outdoors, we examined seven factors.

Average annual percentage of sunny days

Most plants, including marijuana, don’t grow well without sunlight.

Average annual precipitation

Plants typically need water to grow, right?

Average annual high temperature

You don’t want the temperature to be too hot or too cold. Like Goldilocks, you want it to be just right. For optimal growing purposes, we settled on 72 degrees, so the closer a city came to that mark, the higher its score was in that category.

Population density (number of residents per square mile)

If you’re cultivating marijuana outdoors, you probably don’t want your neighbors — or anyone else — to know about it. For this factor, a lower number is better.

“When picking a location and setting up your [marijuana] garden, remember to plan for security. This means keeping people from finding it, and keeping animals out,” according to Marijuana Growers Headquarters. “Visible plants will bring unwanted attention.”

Legalization of medical marijuana and legalization of recreational marijuana

If a metro area is in a state where medical marijuana is legal, it got a 5 percent bump. If it’s in a state where recreational marijuana is legal, it got another 5 percent bump. A state’s stance on marijuana legalization is one barometer of its attitude toward growing pot outdoors.

Seizure of marijuana plants grown outdoors

Using 2015 data from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, we calculated the number of people per outdoor marijuana plant seized in each state. While it may seem counterintuitive, a higher number is better for this factor, as it indicates favorable growing conditions for marijuana.

Sacramento skyline

Growing marijuana outdoors is prohibited in Sacramento, CA.
Photo: Flickr/Jeff Turner

Top Pot Spots

Once we weighed the seven factors for the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S., Sacramento, CA, claimed the top pot spot. However, this doesn’t mean you immediately should begin cultivating pot plants if you’re in the Sacramento area.

Generally, growing marijuana outdoors is frowned upon in the Sacramento area. City of Sacramento code “prohibits outdoor cultivation of all kinds of marijuana, but it allows indoor cultivation of medical marijuana under certain circumstances.” In suburban Folsom, growing marijuana indoors or outdoors is banned.

Passage of the Sacramento ordinance in February made the city the largest city in California to embrace large-scale cultivation of medical marijuana, according to local TV station KCRA.

“It’s phenomenal that a conservative town like Sacramento chose to recognize this industry instead of pretending that it’s not there like a lot of other local governments do,” Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association, told KCRA.

With Sacramento at the front of the pack, here’s our ranking of the 12 Best Cities for Growing Marijuana Outdoors.

1. Sacramento, CA

Sacramento bridge

Photo: Flickr/Ron Reiring

Average annual sunshine: 78%
Average annual precipitation: 34.3 inches
Average annual high temperature: 74 degrees
Population density per square mile: 3,660
Medical marijuana legal: Yes
Recreational marijuana legal: No
Number of people in state per 1,000 seized marijuana plants grown outdoors: 16.3

2. Memphis, TN

Memphis TN

Photo: Flickr/Jeremy Sorrells

Average annual sunshine: 64%
Average annual precipitation: 53.7 inches
Average annual high temperature: 73 degrees
Population density per square mile: 2,132
Medical marijuana legal: No
Recreational marijuana legal: No
Number of people in state per 1,000 seized marijuana plants grown outdoors: 6.8

3. Providence, RI

Providence RI

Photo: Flickr/Andrew Moor

Average annual sunshine: 58%
Average annual precipitation: 47 inches
Average annual high temperature: 61 degrees
Population density per square mile: 2,185
Medical marijuana legal: Yes
Recreational marijuana legal: No
Number of people in state per 1,000 seized marijuana plants grown outdoors: 55,968

4. Nashville, TN

Nashville TN

Photo: Flickr/Brent Moore

Average annual sunshine: 56%
Average annual precipitation: 47.3 inches
Average annual high temperature: 70
Population density per square mile: 1,721
Medical marijuana legal: No
Recreational marijuana legal: No
Number of people in state per 1,000 seized marijuana plants grown outdoors: 6.8

5. Hartford, CT

Hartford CT

Photo: Flickr/Ilirjan Rrumbullaku

Average annual sunshine: 56%
Average annual precipitation: 45.9 inches
Average annual high temperature: 61 degrees
Population density per square mile: 1,792
Medical marijuana legal: Yes
Recreational marijuana legal: No
Number of people in state per 1,000 seized marijuana plants grown outdoors: 9,160

6. Louisville, KY

Louisville KY

Photo: Flickr/Andreas Schusters

Average annual sunshine: 56%
Average annual precipitation: 44.9 inches
Average annual high temperature: 68 degrees
Population density per square mile: 2,040
Medical marijuana legal: No
Recreational marijuana legal: No
Number of people in state per 1,000 seized marijuana plants grown outdoors: 7.8

7. Richmond, VA

Richmond VA

Photo: Flickr/Bill Dickinson

Average annual sunshine: 63%
Average annual precipitation: 43.6 inches
Average annual high temperature: 70
Population density per square mile: 1,937
Medical marijuana legal: No
Recreational marijuana legal: No
Number of people in state per 1,000 seized marijuana plants grown outdoors: 233.3

8. Boston, MA

Boston MA

Photo: Flickr/John Cook

Average annual sunshine: 58%
Average annual precipitation: 43.8 inches
Average annual high temperature: 59 degrees
Population density per square mile: 2,232
Medical marijuana legal: Yes
Recreational marijuana legal: No
Number of people in state per 1,000 seized marijuana plants grown outdoors: 2,165.2

9. Charlotte, NC

Charlotte NC

Photo: Flickr/Brandon Walker

Average annual sunshine: 62%
Average annual precipitation: 42 inches
Average annual high temperature: 71 degrees
Population density per square mile: 1,685
Medical marijuana legal: No
Recreational marijuana legal: No
Number of people in state per 1,000 seized marijuana plants grown outdoors: 4,087.4

10. Atlanta, GA

Atlanta GA

Photo: Flickr/DinhTran, Esq.

Average annual sunshine: 60%
Average annual precipitation: 49.7 inches
Average annual high temperature: 72 degrees
Population density per square mile: 1,707
Medical marijuana legal: No
Recreational marijuana legal: No
Number of people in state per 1,000 seized marijuana plants grown outdoors: 212

11. Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis IN

Photo: Flickr/MCC_Indianapolis

Average annual sunshine: 55%
Average annual precipitation: 42.4 inches
Average annual high temperature: 63 degrees
Population density per square mile: 2,108
Medical marijuana legal: No
Recreational marijuana legal: No
Number of people in state per 1,000 seized marijuana plants grown outdoors: 124

12. Birmingham, AL

Birmingham AL

Photo: Flickr/Jeff Gayduk

Average annual sunshine: 58%
Average annual precipitation: 53.7 inches
Average annual high temperature: 74 degrees
Population density per square mile: 1,414
Medical marijuana legal: No
Recreational marijuana legal: No
Number of people in state per 1,000 seized marijuana plants grown outdoors: 350.3

Data sources

https://www.currentresults.com/Weather/US/average-annual-temperatures-large-cities.php
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/sunniest-cities/
https://www.currentresults.com/Weather/Florida/annual-days-of-sunshine.php
http://www.bestplaces.net/climate/city/california/riverside
http://www.bestplaces.net/climate/city/california/san_jose
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wendell-cox/americas-densest-cities_b_5888424.html
https://www.dea.gov/ops/cannabis_2015.pdf
http://www.governing.com/gov-data/state-marijuana-laws-map-medical-recreational.html

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