32% Cannabis Job Growth in 2020, Despite COVID-19

321,000 Full-Time Cannabis Jobs in 2020

Leafly’s fifth annual cannabis jobs report showed the cannabis industry to support 321,000 full-time equivalent jobs in 2021! An incredible number for an amazing and highly-deserving industry. 

Cannabis jobs aren’t accurately reported to the Department of Labor because it’s federally illegal, so in partnership with Whitney Economics, Leafly has been filling that gap since 2017! The result is a goldmine of knowledge, and always filled with incredible cannabis job data. 

The 2021 report found that there are more legal cannabis industry employees in the United States than: 

  • Electrician engineers 
  • EMTS and paramedics 
  • Dentists (more than twice as many!)

The United States added 77,300 full-time jobs in the cannabis industry in 2020, despite the ravaging pandemic. This represents a 32% year-over-year job growth, which is absolutely phenomenal considering 2020 was the worst year for U.S. economic growth since World War II. 

Cannabis Job Breakdown by State

Medical marijuana has been legalized in 37 US states, and there’s an adult-use market in 15 states and Washington D.C. According to the report: 

  • There are more cannabis employees in Florida than plumbers 
  • Michigan employs more cannabis industry professionals than cops 
  • California employs more cannabis workers than bank tellers 


  • Added 23,707 cannabis jobs in 2020 
  • Has 59,970 total cannabis jobs 
  • The state’s industry grew 80% from 2019 to 2020


  • Added 4,338 cannabis jobs in 2020 
  • Has 35,539 total jobs 
  • Executed $2.28 billion in cannabis sales in 2020


  • Added 14,981 jobs in 2020 
  • Has 31,444 total jobs 
  • Florida sales more cannabis than any other state besides California and Colorado, despite only being legal medically 


  • Added 687 jobs in 2020
  • Has 17,981 total jobs 
  • Did $1.1 billion in sales last year, putting the state at the $1 billion mark for the first time 


  • Added 524 jobs in 2020 
  • Has 19,873 total jobs 
  • If cannabis was counted alongside WA’s other agricultural commodities (cherries, apples, etc.), it would rank in the top 10 in economic value 


  • Added 8,348 jobs in 2020 
  • Has 16,837 total jobs 
  • Chicago, a city with 1 million Black residents, still doesn’t have even one Black-owned dispensary 

Comparing the Cannabis Industry’s Growth to Other Industries 

If you’ve learned anything from reading this article, it’s that the cannabis industry is booming. Therefore, job creation is, too. 

In four years, the cannabis industry’s job growth has increased 161%, quickly beating predictions from other industries ten years from now. Leafly’s 2021 report found in ten years from now: 

  • Speech pathology will grow 25% 
  • Animal caretaking will grow 23% 
  • Data analysis will grow by 32% 
  • Home health aides will grow by 34% 
  • Solar power installation will grow by 51% 
  • Nurse practitioners will grow by 52% 
  • Wind turbine techs will grow by 61% 

Even the largest job growth, wind turbine techs, won’t achieve the same growth in 10 years as the cannabis industry already has in just four years! 

The COVID Effect: How Cannabis Businesses Thrived During the Pandemic 

When the coronavirus began to spread and reached other parts of the world, the cannabis industry was concerned (those of us at The Green Market Report included) that our space would take a massive hit. Most of us were bracing for impact, and waiting for the worst. 

Surprisingly, the glorious opposite happened (for most.) Unfortunately, all industries have lost some businesses due to the pandemic, but cannabis businesses were deemed essential pretty much everywhere. Cannabis retailers responded beautifully, and innovative responses included:  

  • Curbside pickup 
  • Delivery 
  • Limited customers inside once indoor service began again 

It’s also amazing considering many retailers, like MedMen, faced unmanageable losses when rioters stole and destroyed their storefront during last summer’s protests. Many retailers were forced to start over, yet the industry continued to boom. 

Cannabis employment also looks different during the days of COVID, as less employees are required and more people have to stay home for various COVID-related reasons. One business owner reported more staff turnover during 2020 than the last five years. 

Massachusetts retailers sold $700 million worth of cannabis products in 2020, compared to $400 million in 2019 – even with Gov. Charlie Baker’s statewide shutdown temporarily halted all retail sales in April. Cannabis stores in Massachusetts still posted a 75% annual sales gain over 2019, despite the shutdown. 

The report says: 

  • Cannabis consumers increased their monthly spend by 33% 
  • Sales increased at the beginning of March and continued to rise, then plateaued in April-May
  • There was a 71% increase in cannabis sales from 2019 to 2020
  • Americans bought $18.3 billion worth of cannabis products in 2020 

Black-Owned Cannabis Businesses Are Still Sparse 

A lack of diversity is an issue that has been plaguing the cannabis space since legalization began, and according to this year’s report – we still have much work to do. 

Very few states have public data relating to racial or gender diversity in the cannabis space, but Cannaclusive is doing just that. Cannaclusive’s database includes: 

  • 500 Black-owned cannabis businesses 
  • Black Americans only represent 1.2-1.7% of all cannabis company owners 

Some of the most troubling points for diversity in the cannabis industry: 

  • Illinois added 8,000 cannabis jobs last year. Not a single minority-owned business is a finalist for one of the new 75 store licenses expected to be issued in 2021
  • Only 1% of cannabis retail stores are Black-owned. This is three stores out of 260 across the state 

Though this data is concerning, privately funded equity and incubator programs are answering the call to action and making more funds available to minority business owners.


Leafly releases their job report at the beginning of each year, and can be found on their website when it’s released.

Kaitlin Domangue

Kaitlin is a cannabis reporter for the Green Market Report, covering every angle of the industry. She also works directly with cannabis brands as a content marketer.

One comment

  • JU

    February 17, 2021 at 10:23 am

    Just to clarify, your statement that “[N]ot a single minority-owned business is a finalist for one of the new 75 store licenses expected to be issued in 2021…” is incorrect.

    According to a piece in the Chicago Sun-Times, dated September 3, 2020:

    “Seventeen of the (21) qualifying applicants have at least one minority owner, while 13 are majority owned by people of color, the IDFPR said. Sixteen have at least one owner who’s a woman.

    Two-thirds of the applicants qualified because at least one person involved has for five of the last 10 years lived in an area that’s been disproportionately impacted by past marijuana enforcement, the IDFPR said.

    The remaining applicants met other qualifications: Four are majority owned by individuals who have been arrested for or convicted of an expungeable pot offense; two more are majority owned by applicants with a family member, guardian or dependent that meets that criteria; and another has a workforce that consists mostly of people who would qualify.

    Edie Moore, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, is listed as a manager of two of the limited liability corporations that were selected, records show.”

    I’m not suggesting that there aren’t problems with the Illinois application scoring process; there most certainly are. The Administration punted scoring to an accounting firm with no subject-matter knowledge of the cannabis space. This created a scenario where an undersized (and under-representative) group of perfect scores edged out competitors who would better reflect the spirit of Illinois’ social equity plan. However, the oft-repeated claim that there are no potential owners of color in this first round of new dispensaries in Illinois is not accurate.


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