In the United States there are more legal cannabis workers than electrical engineers, EMTs or paramedics. And there are more than twice as many legal cannabis workers as dentists.
According to a report by Leafly and Whitney Economics, the total employment figure is some 321,000 full-time jobs across the 37 states that have so far legalized the plant medically or recreationally. Importantly, the job numbers grow more and more each year. For example, the industry added almost 34,000 jobs in 2019 but more than doubled that in 2020 with 77,300 jobs added – during a global pandemic when the overall American economy shrank by 3.5%.
No other industry comes close and as the legalization movement continues to spread across the country the job numbers will continue to rise – but for how long? There’s an intriguing development to keep your eye on – the coming federal legalization in the US and Mexico and its impact on US jobs.
Specifically, how do you compete with low wage labor, costs, materials, and so on, from Mexico? How do local growers compete with multinational agribusiness entities? And how do local retailers compete with the likes the world’s largest tobacco company, Altria, as it makes its move into the cannabis space? Or Amazon, who some predict will enter CBD retail in the US, and are currently running a pilot program allowing the sale of CBD on its UK website?
And how will all of this affect minority participation in this rapidly evolving industry? As the Leafly jobs report points out they’re not doing well now:
As cannabis continues its run as America’s fastest-growing industry, troubling racial and gender disparities remain. Black Americans represent 13% of the national population, but they represent only 1.2% to 1.7% of all cannabis company owner — a gap that is far too wide.
As cannabis capitalism moves from Mom & Pop to Big Bud, as it surely will, can we honestly expect that gap to narrow?