BY BRUCE BARCOTT FOR LEAFLY
How many jobs are there in the legal marijuana industry? The latest Cannabis Jobs Report from Leafly, the world’s leading resource for cannabis information, found 243,700 full-time-equivalent jobs supported by legal cannabis as of January 2020.
That marks a 15% annual uptick in cannabis jobs during 2019, an indication of continuing expansion even during a tough year for the industry.
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.
New markets deliver strong growth
This year’s jobs count found new markets such as Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Illinois leading the employment expansion. As its adult-use market passed its one-year anniversary, Massachusetts added 10,226 jobs.
Florida also saw amazing growth in 2019. With more than 300,000 registered medical marijuana patients, Florida now has the most medical patients of any state. That growth in the patient base, along with the start of smokable flower sales, boosted Florida to a 93% increase in total sales and helped buoy employment figures—in 2019, more than 15,000 people were employed full time in cannabis careers.
Oklahoma’s robust medical marijuana industry also had a banner year. The state added more than 7,300 jobs in the past year, driven by record demand and $350 million in sales to patients. And given that nearly 1 in 5 Oklahoma residents has their medical marijuana card, it’s unlikely the market has reached its apex.
California posts first job losses
The past year’s job growth would have been even greater were it not for technical job losses in California and Michigan, two of the nation’s biggest cannabis markets.
Our estimate of legal jobs in both states fell this year due to changes in laws and regulations. The sunsetting of California’s caregiver law moved an estimated 8,000 jobs from legal to non-legal status.
Similarly, Michigan’s new regulatory scheme pushed hundreds of formerly legal dispensaries into illicit status. We expect those jobs to return over the next 24 months as both states issue more licenses and bring those jobs back into legal status.
Despite the job losses, California remains America’s biggest legal cannabis employer. But Colorado may be the nation’s biggest per-capita marijuana job market, with one job per 165 residents.
Steady growth in mature markets
Established cannabis markets didn’t exactly stagnate in 2019. Colorado, Washington, and Oregon—three of America’s most mature adult-use cannabis markets—continued to grow at a strong and steady rate. Oregon saw nearly 20% growth, while Colorado and Washington both climbed at an 8% clip.
That’s nowhere near the triple-digit increases posted by developing states like Massachusetts, but it hints at an intriguing story lurking under the numbers. Recreational stores have been open for more than five years in Colorado and Washington, but sales data and on-the- ground reporting indicate that older consumers who were once cannabis-curious are increasingly becoming cannabis-comfortable.
We’re seeing more mature adults finding their preferred dosage and modality in 5mg THC mints and cannabis- infused beverages, for instance.
15% growth: A rough year
The 15% year-over-year growth cannabis saw in 2019 would signal boom times for most other industries—for cannabis, though, it represents a slow-down. Keep in mind that legal states saw a 62% increase in cannabis jobs from 2018 to 2019.
It’s a sign of the times. The past twelve months have been the most difficult for cannabis companies since the first states passed adult-use legalization in 2012. The industry has weathered a financing crash, a lung health crisis associated with the use of illegal-market vaping products, layoffs at market leading companies, and difficult transitions in two of the nation’s biggest cannabis markets, California and Michigan. Internationally, the slow, steady, and cautious rollout of Canada’s legal cannabis industry cooled the previously overheated expectations of US investors.
And still: There isn’t an industry in America that wouldn’t welcome the prospect of 15% growth in a single year.
Why Leafly counts cannabis jobs
Every year Leafly’s data team compiles a state-by-state tally of full-time-equivalent jobs supported by legal cannabis. We do it because economists at state agencies and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics refuse to count them.
If cannabis industry jobs were tallied like other jobs, cannabis farmers would be treated like what they are— farmers. Cannabis store owners would be recognized as hardworking local entrepreneurs. Seed and strain developers would be held up as leading-edge botanists. And legal cannabis would be acknowledged as the fastest- growing industry in America. Over the past four years the legal cannabis industry has doubled in size, creating nearly 121,000 full-time jobs. That’s a 100% growth rate. No other industry even approaches that record.
To learn more about the state of the cannabis industry and keep up with the latest developments and trends, visit leafly.com/news