For an industry still in its early stages, legal marijuana already has surpassed many other businesses in generating jobs.
In a new report called the Marijuana Business Factbook 2017, the marijuana industry is reported to have created 165,000 to 230,000 full- and part-time jobs in the United States. According to the report, that means there are more people working in the marijuana industry than there are bakers, dental hygienists and massage therapists.
The job numbers include those working at cannabis retail stores, growing facilities, marijuana-infused product companies, testing labs and ancillary businesses such as transportation and security. The numbers represent “marijuana’s rapid transformation out of the black market and into a viable economic force,” according to the report.
The numbers also underscore one of the two practical considerations for political leaders that go beyond the decades-old “war against drugs” debate that continues at the federal level.
The first is that legalized marijuana generates huge amounts of tax income for state and local governments. For example, Oregon expects to reap $200 million in adult-use marijuana taxes by 2019, and that money will go to schools, roads and law enforcement.
The tax dollars generated by Colorado and other western states have politicians in other cash-starved states, such as Illinois, hoping to legalize marijuana to help balance governmental budgets.
The second, which the report focused on, is job creation. Nationwide, the numbers are expected to skyrocket as California, Massachusetts and Nevada allow adult-use sales and another big state, Florida, moves forward with a regulated medical marijuana industry.
Though all the new legal marijuana markets will take time to fully develop, “they have the potential to create tens of thousands of new jobs in the marijuana industry,” according to the report.
Putting it in perspective
Marijuana also has been a boon to small businesses. The majority of the jobs in marijuana are concentrated on smaller operations that only need a handful of employees.
Part of the reason for this is the fact marijuana remains an illegal drug at the federal level. Because legalization has happened in a state-by-state manner, large marijuana companies employing hundreds of workers have not materialized.
But the jobs continue to multiply. Assuming that most marijuana industry workers do not require a college degree, here are some other, similar occupations that the marijuana industry has either surpassed or approached in the number of workers:
- Short-order cooks (181,600)
- Electronics Installers and Repairers (136,100)
- Library Assistants (210,700)
- Boilermakers (17,400)
- Sheet metal workers (141,000)
Again, the employment numbers will only grow as legal marijuana operations go into effect in new states. Moving forward on the debate about marijuana, expect politicians to start referencing the economic benefits of cannabis over long-held objections. They may find the economic bottom line on the marijuana industry is too strong to ignore.