Marijuana workers of the United States! If you were to unite, there would be more of you than there are massage therapists, bakers or other classic paths to the middle class.
Legalization advocates have long touted cannabis’s value as a potent job generator—a very meaningful promise in areas that have never fully recovered from the Great Recession and the steady transformation of good, single-earner careers into “gig work,” temp work and other sad excuses for meaningful work provided by late-capitalism. (Show us an Uber driver, and we’ll show you someone who used to have health insurance and a retirement plan, and is now ferrying your cheap ass around for less than the cost of the service in order to satisfy venture capital.)
According to a review of federal employment figures from Marijuana Business Daily, there are as many as 235,000 people employed in the American marijuana industry—which means there are more budtenders, cultivation-house workers, delivery drivers and other cannabis industry professionals than there are dental hygienists.
And soon, if the cannabis industry’s heretofore explosive growth continues, weed workers will outnumber telemarketers and even pharmacists.
How was such a number calculated? MJ Biz Daily sources its estimate from “a variety of methodologies,” none of which it is publicly sharing. The website did survey cannabis industry companies to ask how many workers each firm employed, and then used that data to arrive at an “average number of employees” for each marijuana-related company. The firm then guessed at the “estimated number of companies in each sector,” and then arrived at what is an admittedly a wide, wide estimate: between 165,000 and up to 235,000 cannabis workers.
And that term is broad, indeed, covering as it does anyone involved in the marijuana industry. That could include a testing lab or, conceivably, a store clerk at a garden-supply store, as long as it’s an “ancillary company that glean[s] a sizable portion of their revenue from the marijuana industry.”
These figures are rosy, as is any estimate of the marijuana industry’s size and strength from cannabis-related investor networks or publications. (Another estimate from January, from the venture-capital-backed marijuana news website Leafly, estimated that there are closer to 135,000 jobs in marijuana, with a third of them in California.)
At the same time, there’s no doubt that the cannabis industry is creating jobs.
According to an analysis (also created by the marijuana industry) and published in the Washington Post, Colorado’s billion-dollar-a-year marijuana industry sustains 18,000 jobs.
That’s also an estimate, but other clear signs of cannabis’s economic clout can’t be denied by anyone.
Real-estate prices in Denver are skyrocketing, with top dollar paid for properties that are either zoned or built (or both) for marijuana production or sales. Even the briefest search of popular job boards reveals hundreds of hiring cannabis companies, in seek of C-Suite level executives and professionals as well as $15-an-hour budtending gigs.
Which is good, because the country needs jobs, badly.
Every marijuana job fair across the country is absolutely swamped with job-seekers, who come wearing suits and clutching professional resumes that, a few decades ago, would have landed them an entry-level gig in a career-tracked company.
Donald Trump has yet to deliver on any promise to restart America’s economic engine. As it happens, the very states that put Trump into office—Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida—are launching medical-marijuana industries.
Coal won’t save the Rust Belt—unless by “saving” something, you want to choke it to death—but marijuana will. Provided that Trump’s Justice Department lets it happen.