25 September 2022 |

Nearly 500,000 cannabis jobs – but some markets are lacking.

By Kaitlin Domangue

Leafly’s annual jobs report is one that I am genuinely excited to read every year. 

The information is always mind blowing, like the fact that there are more cannabis industry professionals in the U.S. than firefighters??? 

Considering this cannabis professional needed four firefighters to rescue my kitten from my dashboard on Friday… I feel immediately uncomfortable and am excusing myself from this conversation 👋

Anyways 🙂

There were 428,059 full-time cannabis jobs and 311,350 full-time firefighters at the time of Leafly publishing this report in February. 

There are also fewer hairstylists, machinists, insurance sales agents, and bank tellers in the U.S. than cannabis professionals, but more plumbers and pipefitters. 

Despite these powerful statistics, the cannabis industry is still a tiny industry in comparison to other U.S. spaces. The finance sector, for example, employs 9 million people. Construction payroll topped 7.5 million people at the end of last year. 

At just over 428,000 jobs – the cannabis industry is much smaller. BUT – the pace at which we are adding jobs *is* comparable to these larger industries, proving how quickly the industry’s jobs are growing. 

The cannabis industry added 107,059 new full-time jobs in 2021; the financial sector added 145,000 and the construction industry added 165,000.

The industry is definitely growing and making more of a permanent home in the U.S. marketplace – well as much as we can being a federally illegal, highly-stigmatized industry 🙂  

California’s cannabis jobs

As you probably would have guessed, California’s licensed cannabis industry supports more full-time jobs than any other legal state – at 83,607 legal cannabis jobs when Leafly’s report was published. 

Considering just 53% of the state’s local jurisdictions allow for the sale of regulated cannabis: this is an amazing number. 21,613 cannabis jobs were added in California last year. 

Cannabis jobs in Michigan

Michigan added 13,074 cannabis jobs last year, bringing the state’s grand total to 31,152 full-time cannabis jobs at the time of publication. 

Michigan has seen rapid growth in cannabis employment, the state is just behind California and Colorado in that department. There are 402 adult-use and medical retailers, 47 adult-use stores, and 63 standalone medical dispensaries. 

New Jersey’s market gap 

New Jersey’s medical cannabis program isn’t designed to serve patients to the best of its ability.

The state supports 3,147 jobs – but should be supporting 5,600 in a more accessible market. If New Jersey’s program licensed as many dispensaries as Pennsylvania or Florida, 125 dispensaries would be operating today, but there are only 23.

$149 million was spent in the state’s illicit cannabis market last year because reasonably priced medicine at a nearby dispensary was nearly impossible to find. 

New York’s cannabis talent 

New York is one place you won’t find more cannabis professionals than firefighters. Supporting just 2,358 full-time cannabis jobs, New York has a market gap similar to New Jersey. 

There are just 40 licensed dispensaries to serve 20 million people in the state of New York. If it were licensed like Pennsylvania or Florida, there would be 280 in operation today. 

This means there aren’t many full-time cannabis jobs, either. A well-run cannabis market in New York would have more than 6,000 jobs AND patients would spend a lot more at cannabis retail stores than they do now. 

Is this a sustainable rate of growth? 

I do wonder how many of these 2021 jobs were added in response to the uplift in sales during the 2020 lockdowns and President Biden’s inauguration.

Whether or not that’s the case will be evident in Leafly’s 2022 jobs report, probably slated to be released early next year. 

In Oklahoma, 20,000 cannabis jobs were created to support the state’s more than 13,000 issued licenses.

Compare that to New York, for example, where there’s significantly more people and far fewer cannabis job opportunities. Even Michigan saw tremendous growth, a growth you’d expect in a place like New York. 

Nuances like this also influence the numbers behind cannabis job creation. 

Viridian found the number of cannabis M&A deals increased from 39 in the first half of 2020 to 166 in the first half of 2021, signaling rapid growth in the entire industry and the need for more full-time hires. 

Regardless of the year-over-year growth, the cannabis industry will create thousands of American jobs every single year for the foreseeable future. The growth is undeniable. 

Just make sure we save enough American jobs for firefighters, plz 🙂 I apparently need them more than I realized.