Legalization of recreational cannabis in Missouri led to a surge in job growth within the industry, but the trend could be slowing as labor needs are met.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the number of active licenses to work in the sector catapulted from 9,800 in October to more than 14,000 in March, after voters approved recreational marijuana use through a constitutional amendment last November.
While the rapid expansion has boosted the state’s economy, some experts expressed concerns about market saturation.
Glenn MacDonald, a Washington University economist, warned that the pace of growth might not be sustainable. “I would think this market’s going to be pretty saturated, pretty quickly. I don’t even know if you could make money now, opening a place,” MacDonald told the Post-Dispatch.
Despite these concerns, the state’s industry has seen rapid growth across the board. Businesses have hired workers for various positions, from agriculture and processing to retail and administrative roles.
The industry’s growth has mirrored the post-legalization trend observed in Illinois, with businesses scaling up operations and adding workers across all sectors.
For example, Viola STL opened two retail locations in St. Louis, employing 32 people between them, with plans to grow to 50 over the summer, Managing Partner Daniel Pettigrew told the Post-Dispatch. Rock Hill-based retailer and manufacturer Proper Cannabis hired 76 people so far this year and received more than 100 applicants for its summer internship program.
However, some companies are starting to shift from hiring large chunks of employees to adding workers as needed, which could indicate a slowing pace of growth in the near future.
It remains to be seen how the market will evolve and whether saturation will become a significant issue. State outlets reported last month that cultivators have struggled to meet the overwhelming demand, as threats of a shortage loom.
With sales reaching $102.9 million in the first month alone, the state is on pace to become a billion-dollar market in 2024.
While the state is expected to employ between 30,000 and 50,000 workers in the cannabis sector, a bill requiring fingerprinting as part of background checks for all employees is anticipated to slow down hiring, according to the Missouri Independent.
The measure already cleared the state Senate and is expected to pass in the House as well.
There is still potential for expansion in areas such as health care applications. The state Department of Health and Senior Services plans to begin accepting applications for smaller cannabis “microbusinesses” in late July, the Post-Dispatch reported Tuesday, with winners to be selected in a lottery in October.