Legal Cannabis Industry Employs 243,700 Americans, Report Shows

Despite a difficult year for cannabis, the annual cannabis industry jobs report from Leafly shows a record-high number of jobs in the legal cannabis industry with a 15 percent year-over-year increase.

It’s safe to say the legal cannabis industry in the United States is booming and with it comes an entirely new job market that has reached record high numbers. Leafly released its fourth annual Cannabis Jobs Report this month and it shows just how the economic impact of legalization is spilling over into the employment market, giving 243,700 Americans full-time cannabis jobs.

“The $10.73 billion legal cannabis industry continues to be America’s single greatest job-creation engine, growing at a rate faster than any other industry over the past four years,” the report’s authors wrote.

According to the new report, the past 12 months have been the most difficult for the U.S. cannabis industry since the first states approve adult-use marijuana legalization in 2012. Even with the challenges, legal cannabis industry jobs experienced a 15 percent year-over-year growth rate. While the rate of growth deserves celebration, at the same time it represents a slowing of job growth from years prior.

Leafly researchers noted that the legal cannabis industry has “weathered a financing crash, the EVALI lung health crisis, layoffs at market leading companies, and difficult transitions in two of the nation’s biggest cannabis markets, California and Michigan.”

Cannabis Job Growth Rates Expected to Climb

Looking ahead, Leafly researchers expect 2020 to be a huge year for the legal cannabis job market. According to the report, new adult-use marijuana sales should drive “brisk hiring” in Illinois and Michigan. While over in Missouri, researchers anticipate triple-digit growth, with thousands of job openings in the 192 medical marijuana dispensaries expected to open over the coming year.

Another shift will come from California where municipalities that once banned all cannabis operations will start to open up in 2020. Other smaller markets that previously legalized cannabis without allowing legalizing cannabis sales may finally see regulated stores open in the coming year, including Vermont, Maine, and the District of Columbia.

A 10-year span of job growth in the legal cannabis industry shows cannabis workers will greatly outpace other industries in the years 2018-2028. When compared to other job occupations in the U.S. with strong job growth expectations, like home health aids (37 percent), and new wind turbine (57 percent) and solar energy-related (63 percent) jobs, legal cannabis jobs are projected to leave them in the dust with a 250 percent increase by 2028.

Other Key Findings

The new cannabis jobs report from Leafly also shows the following:

  • Legal states saw a 62 percent increase in cannabis jobs from 2018 to 2019.
  • Medical sales in Oklahoma tripled to $350 million, creating more than 7,000 full-time equivalent jobs.
  • Pennsylvania’s medical dispensaries doubled their sales volume, creating thousands of new jobs in the Keystone State.

Top 10 States by Cannabis Employment in 2019

Leafly’s report revealed the top states in terms of cannabis industry jobs. The top cannabis employment states from the prior year include:

  1. California (39,804)
  2. Colorado (34,705)
  3. Washington (23,756)
  4. Oregon (18,274)
  5. Florida (15,498)
  6. Arizona (15,059)
  7. Nevada (14,305)
  8. Massachusetts (13,255)
  9. Oklahoma (9,412)
  10. Illinois (9,176)

About Leafly’s Annual Report

While federal marijuana prohibition is still in place, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics refuses to recognize the legal marijuana industry when compiling data for its national economic database. In response, Leafly began publishing its annual jobs report in 2017.

“The refusal to acknowledge the existence of legal cannabis jobs is a powerful act of shaming and stigmatization,” the report’s authors wrote.

“There are now nearly a quarter of a million Americans whose professional lives are categorized as illegal or nonexistent by the government of the United States. That is outrageous,” they added.

If enacted in 2018, federal marijuana legalization would have already generated 1.45 million jobs for Americans, according to market research from New Frontier Data.

Cannabis Industry News

Cannabis industry experts foresee continued growth in the coming years. The latest cannabis market report estimates legal global cannabis sales will reach $42.7 billion by 2024.

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