By Phillip Smith
It’s been less than four years since the first legal recreational sales in the United States took place in Colorado, but since then, the US marijuana industry has been creating jobs at rapid pace, and there are now more people employed in the pot industry than there are working in a number of common professions.
That’s according to a new report from the Marijuana Business Daily’s Marijuana Business Factbook 2017, which pegged the size of the cannabis labor force at somewhere between 165,000 and 230,000 full- and part-time workers.
That’s compared to 169,000 massage therapists, 185,000 bakers, and 201,000 dental hygienists. And marijuana industry workers are on a path to shortly exceed the number of telemarketers (238,000) and pharmacists (297,000).
Granted, the legal marijuana industry begins with a base of several tens of thousands of workers producing and selling medical marijuana products, especially in California, with its loose medical marijuana law, but the boom is being propelled by growth in the recreational market, and that is only set to continue and accelerate as more legal states come online next year, including California, Maine, and Massachusetts. Nevada joined the ranks of the legal pot selling states on July 1.
California’s recreational pot market by itself could generate around $5 billion in annual retail sales within a few years, doubling the size of the current legal weed market and creating a massive impact on job creation there.
In arriving at its numbers, Marijuana Business Daily included employment figures for retailers, wholesale growers, edibles and concentrates producers, testing labs, and ancillary firms, such as companies providing legal, marketing, security or other services to marijuana companies. The industry daily used a variety of methodologies, including survey data, on the average number of employees for each kind of company in the business, and that data was then applied to the estimated number of companies in each sector to arrive at final estimates.
One important caveat: The employment numbers mentioned here cover only a fraction of the people involved in the marijuana business — those involved in the legal marijuana business. Even when California, Maine, and Massachusetts begin legal retail sales next year, the legal pot states will only amount to about one-fifth of the US population, and people are growing and selling marijuana in all the other states, too. From black market growers to clandestine dabs lab workers to cross-country couriers to dorm-room dealers, the number of people making a living in the illegal pot industry undoubtedly still dwarfs the number doing it legally.