Legal Cannabis is a Huge Job Creation Machine (Guest Post)

The cannabis industry is an enormous driver of new jobs.

Emerging from the shadows into the legal marketplace, the cannabis business has become the greatest job creation machine in America. Jobs in the legal cannabis industry are coming by the hundreds of thousands and there’s no sign of halt. From 211,000 full-time jobs that legal marijuana has created, more than 64,000 have been added last year alone and this year will bring tens of thousands more.

The Rapid Growth

Marijuana has more than doubled the industry workforce in only three years. The increase in 2017 has been 21%, last year it jumped by another 44%, and the expected growth for this year is at least another 20%. This is quite impressive, especially when you compare it with other industries with the fastest job prospects. Openings for solar photovoltaic installers and wind turbine technicians are expected to double, and positions in the home health care aide will jump 47%. While this seems equally impressive, these projections are for the next 10 years. The cannabis industry did it in 3. Of course, many of these jobs are on the lower end of the pay scale – like ʽbudtendersʼ and plants trimming – but with the industry expanding rapidly, there’s also a strong growing demand for better-paid, professional positions such as software engineers and chemists.

Rolling Through The Individual States

Despite the fact that marijuana remains federally illegal, cannabis laws in the US have changed rapidly over the past several years. This is due to the individual states that have taken up the push for the reform. Changing their laws to allow legal using and buying of medical and, in many cases, recreational cannabis, these states have enabled the upward jobs trend to roll on. With 34 states that have some form of legal medical marijuana and 10 with adult-use legalization, the medium-term potential for job creation is substantial. Last year, early legalizers such as Washington and Colorado saw double-digit job growths – 26 and 17 percent – but since their legal markets are mature these numbers are actually plateauing. For states just coming online, triple-digit job growth figures are fairly common. Florida, whose medical marijuana dispensaries opened up last year, added more than 9,000 jobs. This is a stunning increase of more than 700%. And that’s not the only case of a huge job increase last year. Full-time positions in New York nearly tripled, jobs in Pennsylvania went from 90 to nearly 4,000, and Nevada added more than 7,500 jobs.

Keeping up the Pace

This year is all about keeping up the pace. Due to the shift from the unlicensed medical system to a tightly regulated adult-use legalization hiring was flat last year in California, but this year 10,000 new job posts are expected, bringing total employment to approximately 60,000. With its adult-use market just getting started, Massachusetts is set to add about 9,500 positions. Roll-out of medical cannabis in Florida should see jobs increase by 5,000, bringing the total to 15,000. After the victory of the medical marijuana initiative in November 2018, there are currently more than 2,100 jobs in Oklahoma which is expected to more than double by year’s end. The numbers of industry positions in Arkansas is expected to go from 135 to nearly a thousand as the first dispensary is set to open any day now.

Navigating the cannabis industry was like a journey to the fringes of legitimacy just a few years ago. Cannabis-prescribing doctors were consulting patients over brief video chats, and setting up shops in record stores and strip malls. Dispensaries were usually in barred storefronts, whose employees needed to engage in the charade of scolding their prescription-bearing customers in case they talked about sharing purchases with friends. Today dispensaries are brightly lit spaces on prime retail strips that have showcase tinctures in small squeezer bottles and buds in glass cases. So it’s not hard to imagine what will happen when states such as New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Connecticut manage to pass legalization bills. We can expect a wave of jobs that will inevitably spread across the country and eventually submerge every last stubborn prohibitionist holdout. The legal cannabis job boom isn’t gonna end soon. It is just getting started and promises immense progress.

August 23, 2019

This is a guest post by Cristine Felt, a former nurse and medical cannabis enthusiast who is passionate about writing.

Rod Kight is an attorney who represents lawful cannabis businesses. He speaks at cannabis conferences across the country, drafts and presents cannabis legislation to foreign governments, is regularly quoted on cannabis matters in the media, and maintains the Kight on Cannabis legal blog, where he discusses legal issues affecting the cannabis industry. You can contact him here.

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