How many jobs are there in America’s legal marijuana industry?

Cannabis is America’s fastest growing industry.

In the Leafly Jobs Report 2021 published today, 321,000 full-time jobs (FTE) were found in January 2021 supported by legal cannabis. This sum includes both plant-related jobs and part-time jobs – from budget tenders to bean counters.

To put this in perspective, the United States has more legal cannabis workers than electrical engineers. There are more legal cannabis workers out there than rescue workers and paramedics. There are more than twice as many legal cannabis workers as there are dentists.

Leaf-Jobs-Report-2021-YOY-GrowthJobs in the cannabis industry have grown 161% over the past four years. (Illustration: Joshua Titus for Leafly)

The annual Leafly Jobs Report, produced in partnership with Whitney Economics, is the cornerstone of the nationwide cannabis employment study.

The federal ban prevents the U.S. Department of Labor from counting state-legal marijuana jobs. Since 2017, Leafly’s news and data teams have filled that void with an annual analysis of employment in the legal cannabis sector.

Whitney Economics, a leading consulting firm specializing in cannabis economics, policy and management consulting, has been working with Leafly on the project since 2019.

Open and download the full Leafly Jobs Report 2021

Marijuana Jobs ReportClick here to download the full report, which includes additional data on the top 10 states for cannabis jobs, comparative statistics, and more.

Employment growth doubled as in 2019

Cannabis employment growth in 2020 means a doubling of employment growth in the US last year. In 2019, the cannabis industry created 33,700 new U.S. jobs for a total of 243,700.

Despite a year marked by a global pandemic, rising unemployment, and an economic recession, the legal cannabis industry created 77,300 full-time jobs in the U.S. in 2020. That equates to 32% year-over-year employment growth, a staggering number in the US worst year for US economic growth since World War II.

Cannabis workers are two to one more numerous than dentists in constitutional states. (Illustration: Joshua Titus for Leafly)

Cannabis is now an 18.3 billion dollar industry in the United States

In 2020, Americans purchased $ 18.3 billion worth of cannabis products, up 71% from 2019.

Cannabis sales rose 71% in 2020, driven by buying pandemics and the introduction of new rule of law.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in March, many in the cannabis industry worried about a possible industry-wide shutdown. Instead, in most states, governors made cannabis an essential product. Pharmacies and retail stores responded by offering their customers online ordering, roadside pickup and delivery as COVID-safe options.

Customers responded by stocking up on home advice and social distancing for months. After a brief drop in revenue in late March, most stores saw a significant spike in April – and then the spike plateaued.

Why didn’t match sales attitudes increase?

Increasing income usually leads to more hiring as companies expand to meet increased demand. In 2020, two new factors caused hiring to lag well behind the increase in sales.

To mark the one-year anniversary of federal legalization in the north, investors were put off by less than spectacular returns on Canadian investments. This made it more difficult for US companies to expand and invest in new employees. The little available money disappeared in late March 2020 when the COVID pandemic hit.


The Leafly Strain of 2020 is – Runtz!

The pandemic ultimately led to an increase in sales across the industry. However, social distancing, occupancy limits, and protection orders limited the ability of employees to occupy public retail space and work closely together.

In some cases an inverse dynamic came into play. Some booming companies reported staff shortages as employees battled the virus themselves, were quarantined for contact tracing, showed signs of possible infection, or were forced to stay home due to underlying medical conditions. One business owner reported more turnover in 2020 than in the past five years due to the pandemic.

Black ownership remains an urgent problem

While cannabis continues to be America’s fastest growing industry, there are still worrying gender and race differences.

Black Americans make up 13% of the national population, but they make up only 1.2% to 1.7% of all cannabis business owners – a gap that is far too big.

This year’s Leafly Jobs Report takes a deeper look at the factors that led to this void, the barriers that remain and the promising initiatives that open up opportunities.

Related: Black leaders in cannabis

Methodology: How We Calculate Cannabis Jobs

The 2021 Jobs Report was produced by journalists, editors and data analysts at Leafly in collaboration with employment economists at Whitney Economics.

Leafly and Whitney Economics examined the revenues driven by the legal and adult use markets, combined data on work permits, inputs for business licenses, regulatory structures, and business sector breakdowns to develop a model by which to estimate employment in each state could be. The estimates were then reviewed, refined and adjusted based on input from industry and operators.

The job report combines data from the following sources:

  • US Bureau of Labor Statistics: national and state labor statistics, wage data
  • US Census Bureau: Population and Other Demographic Information
  • U.S. Department of Health
  • State Revenue: Cannabis Sales and Cannabis Tax Revenue
  • State employment offices: employment data compiled at the state level
  • State Health Authorities: Medical Cannabis Patient Records
  • State and local cannabis regulatory agencies: business licensees, cannabis worker permits

Once the data is compiled, Leafly and Whitney Economics analyze the job estimates by reaching out to industry experts, cannabis company owners, and trade association executives.

This year, trade associations gave precise insights into specific market conditions that are not available at the state and federal level. Cannabis business executives provided insights into the impact of government regulations, tax policies, availability of investment capital, and the COVID-19 pandemic on their hiring practices in 2020.

Whitney Economics also conducted a nationwide survey on the cannabis industry. The survey was valuable in triangulating government and industry input and increasing the accuracy of the employment report. The full results of this survey will be released later in 2021.

Additional research from Chris Kudialis, Fatma Khaled, and Dave Howard.

Previous Leafly job reports

Bruce Barcott, Beau Whitney and Janessa Bailey

Bruce Barcott is Leafly’s chief editor, news and investigation.

Beau Whitney is an economist, business consultant, policy analyst, and founder of Whitney Economics.

Janessa Bailey is Leafly’s arts editor and the creator of Lumen, Leafly’s digital space that highlights black entrepreneurs, creators, and breeders in the cannabis industry.

View articles by Bruce Barcott, Beau Whitney, and Janessa Bailey

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