The 2022 Leafly Jobs Report found that the U.S. cannabis industry has added 250% more jobs in the last five years. Photo credit: T. Schneider
Since America’s first legal adult-use cannabis stores opened, the cannabis industry has grown at an incredible pace with each passing year. As it grows, it is becoming one of the nation’s job engines.
As of this January, the Leafly Jobs Report 2022 found that the nationwide cannabis industry currently supports 428,059 full-time jobs. The annual report, produced by Leafly and Whitney Economics, is America’s most comprehensive cannabis employment study.
People are finding employment in plant-touching fields like cultivation and retail sales, and ancillary or non-plant-touching jobs such as accounting, human resources, and legal affairs. Other indirect cannabis jobs include cannabis media, technology platforms and public relations. However, the report does not include jobs under America’s hemp industry or induced jobs. Induced jobs are created when employees spend their own income on consumer goods and services, according to Law Insider.
Jobs in the cannabis market have increased by 33% since 2021, and 250% over the last five years. Additionally, there are 110,769 more cannabis workers in the U.S. than there are hairstylists, barbers and cosmetologists combined.
Overall, the legal industry hired an employee every 2 minutes during the work day, the report explains, totaling “280 new jobs everyday.”
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Not only is it creating jobs quickly, but sales are also rising fast. “In the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. cannabis industry has sold nearly $25 billion in products,” the report adds. In the past year, consumers spent more money on cannabis than they did on energy drinks, or milk or orange juice, according to the report.
Insights of the Cannabis Industry
Leafly’s 2021 jobs report found that 77,300 legal cannabis jobs were added in 2020; this makes last year “the first year that cannabis jobs hit triple figures,” the report states. Specifically, last year’s report found that legal cannabis jobs hit 321,000 between 2020-2021.
From 2021 to 2022, there was an increase of 107,059 jobs in the industry. This is a big step for the cannabis industry, compared to the 189,000 jobs America’s information industry added last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Out of multiple industries in the U.S., legal cannabis workers now outnumber bank tellers (423,570), according to the report.
America’s top States for Cannabis Jobs
California is America’s largest cannabis market with hosted $5 billion in sales and 83,607 jobs, the report states. Following California is Colorado with $2.2 billion worth of sales and 38,337 jobs.
Several adult-use states — Michigan, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Arizona — are currently supporting jobs at double-digit rates. Oregon, which has the lowest amount of cannabis jobs among the top 10 states, currently employs 19,938 people in the industry.
Medical only states are proving to outpace other states with legal adult-use cannabis. For example, out of the top 10 states for employment, the medical-only states of Pennsylvania and Florida hold the sixth and seventh spots, with 26,932 jobs in Pennsylvania and 25,895 jobs in Florida.
Analyzing State Market Trends
The annual job report analyzed several state markets, including California — where the legal industry still struggles to overcome the illicit one. Additionally, the report also provided insight into medical only markets, and states who recently welcomed adult-use sales.
For example, Arizona – which approved recreational cannabis in 2020 — is in its first year of adult-use sales.
The state currently has 23,333 legal cannabis jobs, the report states (employing more than either Washington or Oregon). Currently, there are four times as many cannabis workers in Arizona than there are firefighters (6,230), and twice as many cannabis workers as lawyers (10,000).
In 2021, Arizona’s licensed recreational stores and medical dispensaries made a total of $1.23 billion worth of cannabis product sales, according to MJ Biz Daily.
While California leads cannabis employment with 83,607 jobs, the state’s legal industry is facing setbacks from high taxes and local retail bans. These store bans have led to an oversupply of growers and an undersupply of licensed stores, reports Leafly.
Additionally, nearly 70% of California jurisdictions currently do not have access to legal weed. Consequently, legal operators are struggling as most sales come from the underground market.
However, the plant is so popular in California that there are more cannabis workers than there are producers, directors and actors combined, according to the job report.
In Florida, the 656,000 total medical cannabis patients are driving the state’s growth with $1.5 billion worth of sales. The state’s rising medical patient population is nearly twice the size of other medical-only markets such as Pennsylvania and Oklahoma.
As a result, the amount of medical dispensaries has increased by 33% in the last year, the report states.
According to Florida’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, there are now a total of 399 dispensaries statewide.
However, the state’s medical market still has a lot of room for growth. As Leafly finds, the legal cannabis market could double sales and jobs within one to two years of recreational legalization. Whenever this might happen, Florida’s cannabis market could potentially earn $4 billion in sales; additionally, jobs may increase from the current 25,895 to 70,000 jobs, according to Leafly.
In 2021, the Illinois cannabis industry sold $1.78 billion in products, supporting 28,992 legal cannabis jobs. Sales increased by 73% over 2020, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. The state also added 12,000 jobs in 2021 alone.
However, like California, the amount of retail businesses is limited in Illinois. For example, the Leafly finds that there are only 12 stores per one million residents.
Fortunately, there are 185 more retail licenses underway. However, these dispensary license applicants have filed lawsuits, claiming the licensing process to be unfair, according to the Chicago Tribune. Due to this, the Illinois Supreme Court has ordered to address the lawsuits together, which is currently prohibiting these potential companies from being created, additionally blocking thousands of potential jobs.
Despite this, however, there are still 7,142 more cannabis workers in Illinois than there are bartenders (21,850), according to BLS data.
Overall, the report finds that new cannabis markets are driving potential job growth in the industry. For instance, hiring has slowed in states like Oregon, Washington and Colorado. However more cultivation, budtenders and bookkeeping positions may be emerging in newly recreational states like Arizona and Illinois.
How Much More job Growth is Possible?
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The cannabis industry has created hundreds of thousands of American jobs in the past five years alone. Leafly predicts there are still plenty of more jobs to be created. This does not represent the legal industry’s full potential, however, since only a certain percentage of states have legal markets.
To elaborate, Whitney Economics calculates that the $25 billion total cannabis sales figure only represents 25% of the potential U.S. cannabis market. Because cannabis remains federally illegal, the underground market is capturing the remaining 75% of the market.
The report predicts that by 2025, the nation’s total annual legal cannabis revenue may rise to $45 billion. This is still less than half the potential national market.
As states like Mississippi, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Oklahoma expect to legalize either medical or adult-use in upcoming elections, Marijuana Moment reports, cannabis jobs will continue to rise.
Additionally, the report states that recreational legalization is underway in more states starting in 2022, which will also allow for job growth. By 2023, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut are expected to start issuing recreational licenses and resultantly create thousands of new companies and tens of thousands of jobs.
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