If You Want a Job in the Weed Industry, You Should Go to Illinois
The legal weed industry in Illinois has created over 30,000 jobs since 2020, which is more than its data center and film production industries combined.
Published on February 18, 2023

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Illinois Governor JB Pritzker just heaped praise on his state's thriving cannabis industry for helping boost the local economy and workforce to new heights. 

In his recent State of the State and Budget address, Pritzker celebrated the fact that Illinois now has 81,000 more job openings than it has skilled workers to fill them. The governor explained that the state's Film Tax Credit added an extra 15,400 jobs to the workforce, and a new Data Center Tax Credit helped create another 8,000 jobs. But the state's booming cannabis industry created more employment than both of these job markets combined.

“Cannabis legalization has created more than 30,000 jobs since 2020, and Illinois is home to the country's most diverse cannabis industry and some of the largest companies,” Pritzker said in the address. He also namechecked cannabis investment company 4Front as one of many “large businesses [that] are moving to and expanding in Illinois.”

The cannabis industry has brought more than jobs to Illinois, though. Since adult-use sales kicked off in January 2020, dispensaries have sold more than $3.6 billion worth of recreational bud. More than $1.5 billion of that total was made in the 2022 fiscal year alone, and that record sales figure brought in nearly $450 million in tax revenue. But instead of just stuffing that revenue into the state's general fund, officials have been reinvesting that cash into marginalized communities. 

One quarter of Illinois' adult-use tax revenue goes to fund the Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program, which provides legal aid, youth development, community re-entry, and other services to disadvantaged communities. Legal weed revenue brought in $31 million in R3 funding in 2020, and the steady sales growth boosted that total to $45 million in 2021. Illinois has used even more of its weed tax money to issue pardons and expungements to over half a million people who had been convicted for minor pot crimes.

State regulators are also working to help smaller businesses get a foothold in this exceptionally lucrative industry. Last year, officials issued 192 social equity cannabis licenses to business owners who had previously been busted for weed or otherwise negatively impacted by the harms of cannabis prohibition. One of these new businesses just launched an innovative new venture that sells legal weed, alcohol, and baked goods all under the same roof. 

Illinois is not the only state to see a massive cannabis job boom. In 2020, the US cannabis industry offered around 321,000 full-time jobs, more than twice as many as it did in 2018. The following year, the weed workforce grew by another 33% to nearly half a million full-time positions. Industry insiders now predict that new adult-use markets in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, New York, Missouri, and Vermont will help bring another 108,000 jobs online this year. And as more and more states legalize, that number will grow even higher.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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