Countless reports have suggested that the cannabis industry has bitten off more than it can chew and is now face down in a puddle of hard times. There is, most notably, the tanking of pot-related stocks. More concerning, however, are stories indicating that a slew of layoffs is underway in the business of growing and selling weed, which, at one time, was touted as economic salvation for the American working class. But is the situation really as dire as the Internet tells us? Are their cultivation wizards, budtenders and others that once collected a paycheck from pot resting in a pit of despair? Well, probably not as much as you might imagine. It turns out that the cannabis sector is still one of the fastest-growing job markets in the United States, and it is achieving this without so much as a smidgen of support from the federal government.
The cannabis industry presently employs 243,700 “full-time equivalent” workers nationwide, which is up 15% from where it was last year. This means that more than 33,000 people are now getting that weed money than there were in 2019. That’s not too shabby for a business sect that is still technically trying to keep Uncle Sam from swooping in with all guns blazing and dragging them to jail.
Although the cannabis trade has made significant strides in recent years — now legal in more than 30 states for medicinal use, with 11 states going fully legal for adults 21 and older — the federal government still maintains that these folks are selling a Schedule I dangerous drug. But while government operatives like former Attorney General Jeff Sessions have, in the past, threatened to stop the weed trade dead in its tracks, there hasn’t been much in the way of hammer fisted resistance as of late. Even though President Donald Trump recently upset the industry by proposing a lift to medical marijuana protections, that’s just some nonsense that has been going on since the Obama era. In other words, the cannabis industry is now operating at an unstoppable click, providing the equivalent of a small city with the means to pay bills and raise families.
Still, it might surprise you to learn that the U.S. Bureau of Labor doesn’t count this job growth in its monthly report. So, when you hear that the national economy added 225,000 jobs in January, none of those positions have anything to do with the business of weed. It’s part of the reason that cannabis resource Leafly decided several years ago to start issuing its own jobs report. It wanted to show America just how impactful the cannabis trade is becoming and perhaps outline its importance for thousands of workers in those states where marijuana is legal.
“If the U.S. government doesn’t count your job, in many ways, your job doesn’t count,” Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott said in a statement. “We created the Leafly Jobs Report in 2017 to show that the cannabis industry is an unseen economic growth engine. Four years later, that remains true.
“In 2020, we’re seeing older markets becoming more established, and dramatic expansion and growth in areas across the country — proving legal cannabis is not just a coastal phenomenon anymore,” he added. “And we expect big things in 2020, with these trends pointing to triple-digit growth in the Midwest, a spike in hiring in newly legalized states, and even more folks becoming comfortable with cannabis and boosting legal dispensary sales.”
But what about all of those layoffs we’ve heard about?
While it is true that some cannabis firms have had to downsize a bit to stay afloat, the damage hasn’t been all that severe. Hundreds of people employed by cannabis firms in the U.S. and Canada have been let go in recent months, but a lot more opportunities are being created by other companies in the game. Interestingly, even Leafly, the creator of the jobs reports, has had to downsize to stay competitive. It recently laid off 54 members of its staff to “more closely align our business operations with the market realities of the technology and cannabis sectors in which we operate,” according to Leafly CEO Tim Leslie. What that means exactly is anyone’s guess.
The rub is the cannabis industry continues to be a strong contender in the U.S. economy. Sure, some companies are tanking — that’s just the nature of business — while others continue to flourish and grow. We can expect these types of growing pains in the industry for a while. The market is still so new and shrouded by uncertainty that expecting the stability of perhaps a longtime employer such as the alcohol industry is just not realistic. But it will get there, undoubtedly making impressive strides once the federal government gets on board and recognizes the sector as a legitimate business. That’s when we could easily see this industry employing millions.
This growth could happen within the next few years, too, depending on how the upcoming election shakes out.
TELL US, if you could choose to do any job in the cannabis industry what would it be?