The new report from Leafly and Whitney Economics reveals the cannabis industry is currently creating more jobs than any other U.S. industry.
The legal cannabis industry in the United States has already delivered more than 211,000 full-time jobs across the country. According to a new report from Leafly, working in partnership with Whitney Economics, more than 64,000 of those jobs were created in 2018. The total number of jobs increases to 296,000 when ancillary companies are considered.
By comparison, the textile industry currently employees an estimated 112,000 Americans, while about 69,000 workers are employed by beer brewing companies, and 52,000 people work in the nation’s coal mining industry.
“There are now more legal cannabis industry workers than dental hygienists in the United States,” reads the report.
The findings of the new study – Special Report: Cannabis Jobs Count — suggest that legal cannabis currently creates more jobs than any other industry in the U.S. After tallying the total number of direct, full-time jobs in the state-legal cannabis industry, the data researchers calculated a 110 percent growth over a three-year span. The cannabis workforce increased 21 percent in 2017, and then grew another 44 percent in 2018. It is expected to jump another 20 percent this year.
“[T]he legal cannabis industry remains a substantial and unrecognized engine of grassroots job creation,” the authors of the report concluded. “In fact, cannabis job growth is proceeding at double digit rates in many states despite being overtaxed locally and heavily penalized at the federal level.”
Cannabis Job Numbers by State
As of today, while marijuana remains illegal under federal law, 32 states have legalized medical marijuana and 10 states have legalized cannabis for adult use.
California, which launched its legal adult use marijuana market in 2018, currently leads the U.S., with 67,000 Californians working in cannabis-related employment. Washington (47,000 jobs) and Colorado (44,000), both with operating recreational marijuana markets, are second and third in cannabis industry jobs.
Here are some other notable state-level cannabis job findings of the Leafly report:
- Florida, which implemented its legal medical marijuana market in the summer of 2017, saw its cannabis employment grow by 703 percent in 2018. More than 9,000 full-time jobs were added that year.
- Nevada, having launched its legal recreational market in July 2017, added more than 7,500 jobs in 2018.
- Pennsylvania had only around 90 cannabis jobs by the end of 2017. After launching its legal medical marijuana market in February 2018, it ended that year with nearly 3,900 people working at cannabis jobs.
- New York’s cannabis employment grew by 278 percent from 2017 to 2018, ending 2018 with more than 5,000 jobs.
Leafly and Whitney Economics believes cannabis employment will continue to grow, particularly in California, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Florida, and Arkansas. A separate report published last year by Marijuana Business Daily estimated the legal cannabis industry would provide as many as 340,000 full-time jobs in the U.S. by 2022.
Impact of Federal Prohibition
The full-time jobs in the U.S. legal cannabis sector are limited to the states that have passed their own cannabis policies. Marijuana remains prohibited under federal law, which has prevented many states from implementing their own cannabis markets and thus limited the industry’s growth.
“The federal government needs to deschedule marijuana to allow states to better and more fully benefit from the economic growth engine that is the legal marijuana industry,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said in response to the report. “Further, state regulators need to ensure as this sector expands its economic benefits are shared by all, including and most especially by those who suffered most under the failed policy of criminal prohibition.”
Also, because cannabis remains a federally illegal substance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics refuses to count or report on state-legal cannabis jobs. The Leafly report refers to the job growth within the cannabis industry as “America’s hidden job boom.”
“In 2019, America’s cannabis industry is one of the nation’s greatest economic success stories,” the Leafly report concludes. “That success deserves to be recognized and celebrated. This is an industry that welcomes strict regulation and fair taxation, asking only to have its outdated and unjust federal penalties removed.”
Multiple federal marijuana reform bills have been introduced already this year, including the Marijuana Justice Act and the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2019. It is unclear, however, if Congress will act on either bills.
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