By the end of this year, there could be more weed industry workers than computer programmers in the US, according to a new job market analysis by Marijuana Business Daily.
Medical and adult-use weed companies currently offer around a quarter of a million jobs, including weed growers, trimmers, extraction technicians, joint rollers, budtenders, delivery drivers, and more. The industry also creates employment for ancillary businesses, like consultants, analysts, journalists, lawyers, and equipment manufacturers, who work for the industry even though they don't directly touch the plant.
According to the newest Marijuana Business Factbook, the US legal pot industry employed between 165,000 to 210,000 people in 2019. This year, the number of full-time jobs could reach anywhere from 240,000 to 295,000, slightly higher than the total number of computer programmers currently working in the US. Part of this increase is driven by Illinois and Michigan, two states that began selling adult-use weed this past winter.
As more states legalize, and existing legal-weed states expand their operations, the number of pot industry jobs is predicted to grow. Next year, the industry may add more than 100,000 jobs. By 2024, there could be as many as 575,000 people working in the domestic pot business – potentially doubling the number of people working in the weed sector today.
We all know the legal pot industry is heavily regulated. But, while these extreme restrictions pose a heavy burden to weed startups, they actually help increase the number of industry jobs. In every legal cannabis state, medical or adult-use weed can only be sold at licensed dispensaries or retailers, each of which must be staffed by dedicated employees. Because of this, the cannabis retail sector accounts for the lion's share of pot industry jobs.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced the industry to downgrade its predictions for 2020, however. At the start of 2020, analysts predicted the industry would add 414,000 new jobs by the end of next year, but the pandemic seems to have somewhat derailed those plans. Fortunately, most states deemed cannabis businesses to be essential services and allowed them to remain open during quarantine; many states have also reported record-breaking weed sales over the past few months.
This week also probably marks the end of the extra $600-per-week in federal unemployment benefits, which is likely to cut many Americans' income down to base survival level. This loss in expendable income may cause weed sales to tank in the coming months, but how the market will actually be affected remains to be seen.