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As of 2019, legal cannabis has created 211,000 full-time jobs in America

March 4, 2019

Editor’s note: Leafly’s annual Cannabis Jobs Count has been updated for 2020. For the latest data on cannabis jobs in America, click here.

Click here for Leafly’s 2020 Cannabis Jobs Count

As of 2019, legal cannabis has created 211,000 full-time jobs in America

How many jobs are there in the legal cannabis industry? It’s a common question—and one the government refuses to answer.

Because cannabis remains federally illegal, employment data agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics ignore all jobs related to the industry.

Legal cannabis is the greatest job creation machine in America. Our employment data proves it.

That’s too bad, because they’re missing one of the most dramatic job booms in recent history.

Over the past three months Leafly’s data team, working in partnership with Whitney Economics, has gone state-by-state to tally the total number of direct, full-time jobs in the state-legal cannabis industry.

There are now more than 211,000 cannabis jobs across the United States. More than 64,000 of those jobs were added in 2018. That’s enough people to fill Chicago’s Soldier Field, with 3,000 more tailgating outside.

Legal cannabis is currently the greatest job-creation machine in America. The cannabis workforce increased 21% in 2017. It gained another 44% in 2018. We expect at least another 20% growth in jobs in 2019. That would represent a 110% growth in cannabis jobs in just three years.

Download the full report

Special Report: 2019 Cannabis Jobs Count is available only at Leafly. The main report offers a national overview of direct employment as well as indirect positions and jobs induced by the legal cannabis industry. We also offer data about tax revenue in legal states, growth predictions for 2019, salary ranges for the most in-demand cannabis jobs, and tips on getting hired. The report’s appendix offers a state-by-state analysis of market size, growth, and job numbers.

Growth compared to what?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently compiled a list of the industries with the fastest-growing employment figures. Opportunities for home health care aides are expected to grow 47%. Openings for wind turbine technicians are expected to increase 96%. The need for solar voltaic installers is expected to grow 105%. Those gains are projected to happen over the course of 10 years.

Here’s the incredible thing: The 110% growth in cannabis jobs will have happened over just three years.

Federal job counters won’t tell you that. We just did.

These states are booming

Some states that have had legal adult-use cannabis sales for a while now—Colorado and Washington opened their stores in 2014—are just now seeing the growth in cannabis jobs start to plateau.

Meanwhile, newly legal states, such as Florida (medical) and Nevada (adult use), are experiencing cannabis job booms with eye-popping gains:

  • Florida grew its cannabis employment by 703% in 2018, adding more than 9,000 full-time jobs.
  • Nevada added more than 7,500 jobs during that same year.
  • Pennsylvania ended 2017 with around 90 cannabis jobs. It ended the 2018 with nearly 3,900.
  • New York grew its cannabis employment by 278%, ending 2018 with more than 5,000 jobs.

Download the state-by-state analysis

Who’s hiring in 2019

California, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Florida, and Arkansas are seeking talent—and they need it now.

  • California’s cannabis hiring remained relatively flat in 2018 due to the disruption caused by the changeover from an unregulated medical system to a licensed, regulated markets for medical and adult use. But we expect cannabis jobs in the Golden State to increase by 21% in 2019. In raw numbers, that means 10,261 jobs with good salaries, benefits, and opportunity for advancement are waiting to be filled.
  • In Massachusetts, the state’s adult-use market is just getting underway. We expect more than 9,500 jobs to be added in the next 12 months.
  • Florida should add more than 5,000 jobs in 2019, bringing the state’s total cannabis employment to around 15,000.
  • Oklahoma is the Wild West of cannabis right now. There were zero cannabis jobs one year ago. Now there are 2,107. A year from now, we expect there to be 4,407.
  • Arkansas is just getting its medical marijuana program underway, but there’s room for growth: from 135 jobs now to 960 jobs by the end of the year.

How to land a job

All this week, Leafly will roll out a series of articles about working in the cannabis industry: where the growth is, what it’s like to work in the cannabis industry, and how to crush that job interview and bring an offer home.

Bruce Barcott's Bio Image

Bruce Barcott

Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.

View Bruce Barcott's articles

4 part series

  • If I was only about 30 years younger . . . 🙂

  • Rich G

    It’s sad but true, the industry does not pay well unless you’re in a management position or higher…they really need to raise the pay ‘floor’ to get better employees interested.

    • GTG

      I will second that, indeed.
      Unless you are in upper management, working for a dispensary is no different than any other low-wage/minimum wage retail position, here in California. And, like with retail, I do not expect this to ever change. There will always be people who will tolerate low wages and bad management in exchange for a discount of cannabis and the occasional “freebies”.

  • Cara Monigold

    I read the full report, an important piece is missing. Where are the statistics on who is employed in these jobs. Caucasian, African American, Latino, etc?

  • Joseph Conlan

    Are participants in the industry having issues opening bank accounts?

  • Hey, Steve, if you’d be interested in working in the hemp-derived CBD business, let me know. Our company is growing crazy and it’s so much fun!

  • GTG

    Any type of smoke one ingest is damaging to one’s lungs.
    As for it’s environmental impact…
    Cannabis is great, but let’s not get carried away like the “it cures EVERYTHING!” CBD crowd.

    • 360dunk

      I was talking about lung damage to those who don’t smoke it, in other words, as it affects the environment.

      As for your ‘CBD crowd’ generalization, you sound like someone who hasn’t used it much. If that’s the case, you have no clue what it does to the human body and how it helps different ailments. As a user who’s been taking CBD twice a day for over two years, I’ll rely on my own knowledge of the oil, which likely far exceeds yours.

      • GTG

        I was referring more to the various new marketeers of CBD products hitting the retail (non-dispensary) outlets. Quite a few experts in this area have already pointed out the very same claim I did in the previous post with regards to some of the over-inflated claims being made by some of these products/marketeers.

        • 360dunk

          But if one does his or her due diligence, it’s pretty easy to weed out the crummy CBD products and go with the good ones. Once you’ve found the right products, you’ll see the benefits and realize CBD DOES have amazing healing properties. Sure has helped me out in multiple ways.

          • GTG

            Just to be clear: Yes, CBD does have health benefits. I am not disagreeing with that claim.