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An In-Depth Look at Cannabis Industry Jobs in the U.S.

cannabis jobs
Written by Alexandra Hicks

Did you know that as of January 2020, there were over two-hundred thousand full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs in the cannabis industry?

To be exact, there are 243,700 jobs that are supported by legal cannabis. Even in a slow year like 2019 was, the cannabis industry added 33,700 new jobs, which adds up to a 15% year-over-year increase. That makes legal cannabis the fastest growing industry in the United States.

After exorbitant growth the year prior, 2019 saw diminishing investment capital, a health crisis linked to vaping THC, a Canadian market moving slower than expected, and widespread layoffs at some of the biggest companies in the industry. Despite this, the growth experienced in a few select states was enough to offset all of those issues.

That said, let’s take a quick look at what’s going on around the country.

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Notable Growth in the Sunshine State

Florida now has more medical cannabis users than any other state in the nation with upwards of 300,000 registered patients. Over the last year, Florida has experienced a 93% increase in total profits due to the growth in patient numbers as well as the launch of smokable flower sales.

This rise in sales and growth in patient-base naturally led to more jobs. Florida now has 15,498 people working in the state’s legal cannabis industry, falling short of only California, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon – all state with well-established legal cannabis markets.

According to Robert Friedman, founder of Cannabis LAB, a South Florida-based cannabis industry networking group that helps educate people who want to find work in the cannabis industry, his company is in a “sweet spot” to start filling jobs with eager employees.

“[Marijuana companies] have to hire a lot of people, and the ancillary jobs to support that with farming, construction, real estate, packaging … one of the great benefits of the cannabis industry is job creation,” he told the Miami Herald.

The Wild West

Although the overall numbers showed consistent growth throughout the years, there were numerous job loses in California – the nation’s largest cannabis market – which brought the statistics down a bit. Large companies like Eaze and Weedmaps downsized significantly over the last year.

Regulatory changes are the culprit, which isn’t uncommon for any industry in California. Closing the door on California’s caregiver law turned 8,000 formally legal jobs to prohibited, although other various other reasons are also to blame.  

Regardless, California still is and probably always will be America’s dominant cannabis market with the most industry jobs available. However, Colorado has a higher number of per-capita cannabis jobs, meaning that if they had the same population size as California, they would have a significantly higher number of jobs. In Colorado, there is 1 cannabis industry job per every 165 residents.

In the Western corridor, Washington is the state that came in last place as far as quantity and availability of cannabis jobs. This doesn’t mean the state fared poorly though, as they have experienced a steady 8% growth rate over the last year.

Goodbye Rust Belt, Hello Green Belt

The Midwest is becoming a major contender in the cannabis industry as numerous states in the region have legalized adult-use cannabis over the last few years.

Illinois doubled the number of legal cannabis jobs over the last year and once recreational stores opened on January 1, 2020, the market completely exploded. Early data from the beginning of the month indicates that the Illinois cannabis market supports 9,176 jobs and is raking in $470 million. Since these numbers are preliminary, some experts believe sales will top $600 million by the end of 2020.

Ohio also doubled the number of legal cannabis jobs over the course of the year, but their sales remained stagnant at only $56 million in 2019. However, more dispensaries will open in 2020 and data indicates that by the end of this years, total sales could surpass $220 million with roughly 4,275 jobs for the citizens of Ohio.

Missouri is also steadily moving forward. They have a huge number of medical patients – 22,000 – which is significant considering the total population is fairly low. The state isn’t actually making any money yet, but people are buying space, building, prepping land, and generally getting ready for what the future holds.

The only state that hit a snag was Michigan. Like in California, Michigan’s new licensing system illegalized thousands of formally legal industry jobs. They’re also having trouble launching adult-use sales in certain cities – namely their largest city, Detroit. Michigan has slipped a little, but we expect them to get back to their $800+ million in sales within the next few years.

Top 3 Careers in the Cannabis Industry

Even though there are so many jobs and careers to choose from, I wanted to focus a bit on the top 3 that are expected to have both longevity and earning potential. Below is the short list I came up with:

Farmer – When it comes to good quality cannabinoid products, it all starts with the plants. Cannabis (and hemp) farmers are in high demand at the moment since not many people have the skills, experience, or equipment necessary to grow plants that are good enough for medicinal use or extraction. Cannabis farms yield roughly $1.1 million per acre, while industrial hemp can bring in $40,000 to $50,000 per acre.

Extraction – To manufacture products that use any type of cannabinoid as the main ingredient, the compounds will need to be extracted first. Cannabinoid extraction is a delicate science. The process if very precise and can be extremely dangerous when done incorrectly. Typically, an extraction technician has a Phd or similar degree, and they can expect to earn $75,000 per year or more.

Lab/research technician – Lab techs earn anywhere from $50,000 to $110,000, depending on experience. People with this skill set and education are in demand because all legal markets, both recreational and medical, hemp and cannabis, require all products, including flowers to be lab tested. Even products that are sold online usually have COAs (certificate of analysis) available to ease consumers’ minds as mislabeled items continues to be a scourge on the industry.  

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the cannabis industry is basically a runaway train in terms of growth and expansion. As the number-one fastest growing industry in America, finding a job in cannabis might be easier now than ever before.

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About the author

Alexandra Hicks

Managing editor at Cannadelics and U.S based journalist, helping spread the word about the many benefits of using cannabis and psychedelics.