As the number and size of state-legal markets continue to expand, America’s cannabis sector is adding to the country’s workforce more than most other industries.
Over 107,000 pot-related jobs were created in 2021, rising 33 per cent to a total 428,000 positions, according to a new report from Leafly. That’s the fifth year in a row that the growth rate for cannabis hires has been above 27 per cent.
The yearly report is developed in partnership with consultancy Whitney Economics. Jobs accounted for in the data include direct positions like cultivation and retail, sometimes called “plant-touching jobs.” They also include ancillary jobs that serve licensed companies, like accounting, human resources, legal affairs, security, maintenance and construction.
Cannabis media, technology, public relations, lobbying and industry associations are also included. But hemp industry jobs are not.
The job growth is impressive, especially when compared to other massive industries, like finance (added 145,000 jobs last year) and construction (added 165,000).
America’s 11 operational adult-use markets and 27 medical-only states sold US$25.6 billion of weed. That’s more than milk (US$16 billion) and energy drinks (US$20 billion), but less than nutritional supplements (US$55 billion), wine (US$78 billion) and beer (US$94 billion).
By 2025, Leafy forecasts total legal cannabis revenue in the U.S. to approach $45 billion.
By far, America’s largest cannabis employer is California (84,000 jobs), followed by Colorado (38,000), Michigan (31,000), Illinois (29,000) and Massachusetts (27,000).
California’s pot economy alone is worth US$5 billion, and has room to grow if regulators can remove more red tape and more regional bans are lifted. Colorado’s market is worth US$2.2 billion.
Pennsylvania and Florida remain the nation’s strongest medical-only employers, with 27,000 and 26,000 jobs respectively.
The report’s authors say the prospects of continued growth is strong, with total sector employment potentially reaching 1.5–1.8 billion workers.
For people looking for industry jobs this year, the report notes that hiring should be strong in New Jersey this year, as medical dispensaries are expected to welcome adult-use consumers by early summer. New Mexico, New York and Connecticut are also expected to start issuing adult-use licences, which would add tens of thousands of new jobs.
Read more: New Jersey slow to set up cannabis sales, personal cultivation
Read more: New York to expedite adult-use cannabis production
Over the year, Leafly forecasts the U.S. legal cannabis market to grow 18 per cent to US$29.2 billion. That growth is expected to be concentrated in states like New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Florida.
Due of federal prohibition, the US Department of Labor doesn’t track state-legal marijuana jobs.