Marijuana jobs are becoming a refuge for retail and restaurant workers, The Washington Post reported last week. Millions of people across the US are quitting their jobs in what The Hill called the “Great Resignation,” fueled by COVID-19 pandemic stresses.
Cannabis Industry: Refuge For Under-Paid And Under-Appreciated Retail Workers
“Marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities became an early refuge for retail and restaurant workers who had been furloughed or laid off,” per The Washington Post.
“It is so rare to have an opportunity to shape an industry from its inception,” said David Cooper, an analyst for the Economic Policy Institute, who was quoted in the Washington Post.
“There is an urgency to establish guardrails now, for well-paying, middle-class jobs, before cannabis is legalized federally and really takes off. Otherwise, these jobs could quickly start to look like existing retail and agriculture jobs, which are oftentimes the worst jobs in the economy.”
According to a 2021 Cannabis Jobs Report prepared by Bruce Barcott, Beau Whitney and Janessa Bailey for Leafly, legal cannabis now supports 321,000 full-time American jobs.
More Than 77,000 Jobs Added in 2020 Alone
Federal prohibition prevents the US Department of Labor from counting state-legal marijuana jobs. Thus, since 2019, Leafly’s news and data teams have filled that gap with a yearly analysis of employment in the legal cannabis sector in partnership with Whitney Economics, a leading consulting firm that specializes in cannabis economics.
“In real numbers, the cannabis job growth in 2020 represents a doubling of the previous year’s US job growth. In 2019, the cannabis industry added 33,700 new US jobs for a total of 243,700” stated the report.
Despite the pandemic, the legal cannabis industry added 77,300 full-time jobs in the United States in 2020.
“That represents 32% year-over-year job growth, an astonishing figure in the worst year for US economic growth since World War II” explained the researchers in the report.
According to the report, in the United States, there are more legal cannabis workers than electrical engineers, EMTs, paramedics and dentists.
California remains the nation’s leading cannabis employer, with 57,970 full-time equivalent jobs, followed by Colorado with 35,539 jobs.
Florida’s medical marijuana industry employs an estimated 31,444 state residents —exceeding adult-use in states like Washington (19,873 jobs) and Oregon (17,981).
In California, nearly 60,000 people work in the industry. The job market grew 23,3% in 2020.
In Florida, there was a 15% increase in the number of jobs in 2020. Michigan added around 9,000 new jobs, while Illinois added over 8,000, followed by Pennsylvania with 7,180, Oklahoma’s 6,237 and Arizona with 5,648.
Racial and Gender Disparities Persist
The report also revealed that troubling racial and gender disparities remain amidst the explosive job growth in the cannabis industry.
For example, in Illinois, not a single minority-owned business is a finalist for one of the 75 new cannabis store licenses expected to be issued in 2021.
In Massachusetts, only three of the more than 260 retail cannabis stores (1%) currently operating are Black-owned businesses and only seven are owned or co-owned by women, per the report.