Cannabis Industry Is America's Number One Job Creator

The U.S. economy gained 467,000 jobs in January 2022 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is down by 2.9 million since February 2020. In brighter news for cannabis, Leafly’s (NASDAQ: LFLY) sixth annual Cannabis Jobs Report (developed in partnership with Whitney Economics) reveals that the legal cannabis industry added 107,059 new jobs in 2021 and is poised to hold on to its distinction in 2022 as the most prolific job creator in America.  According to the report, as of January 2022 there are now 428,059 full-time equivalent jobs supported by the legal cannabis industry in the United States. This figure does not include employment in hemp, unregulated products made with hemp cannabinoids like delta-8 THC or “induced jobs”, aka jobs created by the wages paid to cannabis workers. 

The cannabis industry’s ranking as America’s number one job creator is not a new and surprising development. In fact, the industry has seen an annual job growth rate higher than 27% for five years running, with promising future gains as big adult-use markets in states like New Mexico and New York prepare to come online in the months to come. In comparison with the entire financial sector, which added 145,000 jobs last year, and construction, which has been seeing steady gains in states like Colorado and added 165,000 jobs coast-to-coast, the legal cannabis industry is indisputably the United States’ leading job-maker, particularly in California, where it provides 83,407 jobs, and Colorado, where it provides 38,337 to date.

Sales of cannabis products in adult-use and medically legal states are up more than $6 billion dollars from the previous year, necessitating more willing and skilled workers at every point on the development, production, and sales continuum. But the legal cannabis industry is not immune to the larger problem plaguing the economy right now, which is the difficulty of finding and attracting sufficient workers to fill those jobs. In 2021, the legal cannabis industry created more than 280 new jobs every day, but employers across sectors are struggling to staff their businesses, particularly in the hourly wage jobs. Job growth and employment rates are not syncing up in predictable ways, even for the bullish cannabis industry.

Cannabis job growth rates, while expected to remain robust, will falter somewhat in 2022 according to the Leafly and Whitney Economics’ forecast. Constricted medical schemes, state regulations, the growth of illicit markets and the slowing of more mature markets are all contributing factors to this likely deceleration. Still, studies have allowed researchers to identify and predict market trends and patterns, including the surge of growth that typically occurs two to five years after the opening of a state’s adult-use stores. This currently includes Massachusetts, Illinois, and Michigan, while Arizona’s recreational market, for example, is still in its infancy and can be expected to post higher numbers in a year or more. 

Overall, the Leafly’s report paints a rosy picture for cannabis jobs in the U.S., if less evenly so in the coming year. Whether hiring rates are able to keep pace with the demand for workers, however, remains an open question across every sector of the U.S. economy.

Julie Aitcheson

Julie Aitcheson is a freelance writer, author and educator. In addition to Green Market Report, her work has appeared in Vanguard Magazine, The Fresh Toast, Green Entrepreneur, Daily Press, The Baltimore Sun, LA Weekly and The Chicago Tribune. She received a full fellowship to the 2013 Stowe StoryLabs and won second place in the 2014 San Miguel Writers' Conference nonfiction writing competition. She has published two young adult novels and is currently at work on a piece of adult fiction.

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