When it comes to discussions about job growth, particularly in the US, people typically focus on industries like healthcare, technology or manufacturing. However, as of late, the biggest boom has been around the cannabis job industry.
In 2019, the legal marijuana industry created 211,000 full-time jobs in the US – over 64,000 of which were added in 2018.
A New Frontier Data report estimates that the legal cannabis industry will create over a quarter of a million jobs by 2020 – which is more than the expected number of jobs to be created in utilities, manufacturing or even the government sector.
This report indicates that there will be more than 198,195 jobs in 2020 due to cannabis’s legalization.
A fourth annual cannabis jobs report released by Leafly indicates that 243,700 professionals in the US are currently employed in the cannabis industry as of Q1 2020.
We’ve just skimmed the surface – More Cannabis Job Statistics
In order to understand and appreciate the rate at which cannabis occupations are storming the US job market, it’s important to take into consideration some of the statistics collected in the last few years.
For instance, in 2016 the legal cannabis market was worth approximately $7.2 billion and projected at the time to grow at a 17% annual compound rate. Medical cannabis sales were projected to grow from $4.7 billion to $13.3 billion between 2016 and 2020.
These numbers are important – because they confirm that cannabis has been a major US economic driver by creating jobs across multiple occupations, which we will be discussing later down the article.
According to an annual survey conducted in 2016 by Marijuana Business Daily, the cannabis industry was employing between 100,000 to 150,000 workers each year, and almost 90,000 among them were working in plant-touching companies.
The year 2016 marked another milestone in the cannabis job market – Feds were prohibited from spending any money to prosecute professionals in the cannabis industry who were complying with all state medical cannabis laws and court rules.
Even though this ruling affected only the 9th Circuit states, it’s quite likely that the decision will influence other circuits across the nation. This is huge to say the least, because more people now feel secure about entering the cannabis job market.
The majority of people already working in the cannabis industry seem grateful and consider themselves “lucky” to be working for cannabis producing companies.
In fact, the cannabis industry now attracts professionals from more traditional industries who seek new challenges and unique job environments.
How does this growth stack against other jobs?
Technical and professional workers like tax experts, accountants, marketers, trimmers, budtenders, lab assistants, dispensary managers and cultivation directors make up over half of the new workforce – with an annual median salary of $58,511 which is nearly 11% higher than the average overall US median.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a job-creation rate in the cannabis industry of 110% between 2017 and 2020. Canada has already added cannabis as a ‘job industry’ to its everyday statistical gathering in anticipation of full legalization that had taken place in fall of 2018.
Around the end of Q1 2019, the BLS had come up with a list of industries that boasted the fastest-growth employment numbers. It was reported that job opportunities for healthcare aides were expected to grow by 47%; job openings for turbine specialists was projected to grow by 96%; solar voltaic installer jobs were expected to grow by 105%. Those increases were expected to be seen over the next 10 years.
Here’s a mind-numbing statistic though that the BLS failed to report: the 110% growth in the US cannabis job market has occurred in just a little over three years.
Here’s a brief look at the number of jobs that were added to specific US states in Jan 2020:
- California – 10,261 (projected 21% increase from last year)
- Florida – 5,136 (projected 50% increase from last year)
- Massachusetts – 9,564 (projected 317% increase from last year)
- Arkansas – 825 (projected 611% increase from last year)
- Oklahoma – 2,300 (projected 109% increase from last year)
Cannabis Job Market Growth in Canada
Aphria Inc., a leading Canadian producing company, had to close down nearly 14,000 cannabis plants in 2018 due to a lack of skilled labor force. However, the company has managed to double its staff since then.
Aphria’s experience seriously underscores the increasing demand for skilled labour in Canada. The country’s licenced producers employed around 2,400 workers by Q4 2017. Between then and Q4 2018, eight of the country’s largest cannabis manufacturers had around 1,700 open positions, according to a Bloomberg report.
In Canada alone, there has been a prominent spike in cannabis grower and retailer job positions. However, the industry has also seen a fair amount of R&D and other science-based positions, which had created approximately 125,000 jobs only after the first year when cannabis was legalized in Canada in mid-2018.
Future Projections and Most Common Job Occupations in the Cannabis Market
A more recent New Frontier Data report suggests that the legal cannabis industry in Illinois alone will be employing over 63,000 workers by 2025 – which is approximately the same number of elementary school teachers that currently work in the state.
Illinois is an important indicator of the overall cannabis job market because this marks a huge increase that would take place in the next few years all across the US. Since recreation marijuana use had been legalized in the state in January this year, the maximum number of jobs that this will create by 2021 could reach 29,407.
With this upward trend continuing, the state of Illinois could very well see just over 63,000 people holding cannabis-related jobs. However, this estimate does not include ancillary businesses that work with the cannabis industry such as law firms, real estate companies and security contractors.
The total number of cannabis jobs across the US which was recorded at 340,344 by the end of 2019, is expected to rise to 743,196 by 2025. And by then, at least 123,567 people would have jobs in the nation’s largest cannabis industry, which is currently in the state of Illinois.
Despite an ever-present federal threat – because the DEA still considers cannabis to be a banned substance as it has not been fully legalized in all states – the $8.5 billion US cannabis industry is poised to grow exponentially. And this is generating jobs at an equally rapid pace.
Here are some of the fastest growing job occupations driven by cannabis legalization:
The hands-on, entry-level job requires individuals to remove buds from stems during harvesting season and trim leaves so that the herbs can be prepared for sale. However, most small-scale dispensaries prefer to hire trimmers on a part-time or ‘certain days of the week’ basis – while larger indoor growing facilities often hire trimmers on a year-round basis.
No special education is required although a trimmer must be 21 years of age in order to obtain a special state-specific permit.
Average salary range for qualified Trimmers – $12.25 to $14 per hour
Equal parts bartender, pharmacist, hall monitor and confidant, the budtender is the marijuana industry’s primary point of contact with the end consumer.
From behind the cash register or dispensary counter, budtenders are responsible for checking IDs, prescription cards, tracking marijuana sales, etc. – but more importantly, they possess sound knowledge on all the various types of herb in order to help consumers understand what’s best for them and how to use them properly.
Even though one of the prerequisites is having a fair amount of knowledge on all the different strains sold, past cannabis use experience is not always required. Budtenders are generally well-positioned to make progress in the market, with many dispensaries offering hands-on training during shifts.
Average salary range for qualified Budtenders – $13.25 to $16 per hour
Dispensary Store Manager
Interestingly, in quite a few ways, managing a cannabis dispensary is similar to managing a retail store – you must manage the staff, keep a check on inventory and encourage a clean and professional setting. However, the highly regulated nature of cannabis can make the job a bit complicated.
For instance, the dispensary manager must ensure that all employees are complying with the state laws; that everyone working is 21 years of age or older, and; if it’s a medical cannabis store only, then consumers are showing medical proof or prescriptions before buying their desired product.
Dispensary managers often have past experience working at high-end retail stores.
Average salary range for qualified Dispensary Managers – $56,000 to $98,000 annually
Director of Extraction
With legal cannabis being sold in so many varied forms today, a director of extraction must supervise the production of oils and concentrates within the plants which are required to manufacture all the various products.
Unsurprisingly, this job requires a fair amount of skills – it’s not uncommon to see people with PhDs or those with experience as chemists bypassing their pharmaceutical jobs to work with a cannabis producer.
Average salary range for qualified Directors of Extraction – $72,000 to $191,000 annually
The cannabis industry is set to be a major contributor to the economy with plenty of jobs being set aside for qualified individuals.
If you believe you have what it takes, go ahead and take the plunge!