West Virginia ranks among the top 10 marijuana-producing states in the nation, according to new estimates by a veteran researcher.

Marijuana growers in the Mountain State collect an estimated $494 million per year, according to Jon Gettman, former director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Gettman is a part-time instructor at Shepherd University in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle.

Gettman says marijuana production in West Virginia far out paces traditional crops.

State Department of Agriculture statistics show the value of hay produced last year was $68 million and corn was $10.7 million.

Gettman listed California as the top marijuana-producing state at $13.8 billion with Tennessee, Kentucky, Hawaii, Washington, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, West Virginia and Oregon rounding out the top 10.

Unlike the production in other places, most West Virginia pot is still grown outdoors.

"Speaking very generally, there's a resemblance to the moonshine generation in that there are so many places in the mountains that are hard to find and locate that it's a lot easier to grow it outdoors," Gettman said.

The indoor marijuana plants are much smaller than outdoor plants.

When people grow marijuana on their own property, they risk losing their land if authorities find the plant, Gettman said.

Gettman said by prohibiting the use of marijuana, the government is doing nothing to control production or sales of the drug.

In fact, he said, marijuana production has increased tenfold in the past quarter-century, from 2.2 million pounds in 1981 to 22 million pounds.

The pot crime does fill the state's regional jails.

"The growth in marijuana production and its proliferation to every part of the country demonstrate that marijuana has become a pervasive and ineradicable part of the national economy," Gettman said.

The failure of intensive eradication programs suggests that it is finally time to give serious consideration to marijuana's legalization in the United States."

The nation's leading conservative thinker William S. Buckley agrees, saying the war on drugs has become an ineffective industry itself.

Gettman estimates that police seize only about 8 percent of outdoor marijuana and 2 percent of indoor marijuana.

"Whether it's increased by seven-fold or tenfold does not matter," Gettman said. "It's (marijuana production) still increasing at an alarming rate."