It has been a given for years or even decades that the most durable career track is one in the field of technology. Granted, tech jobs are in high demand and will continue to be a relatively safe career choice for a long time. Yet, the fastest-growing job market is not technology, believe it or not, but legalized cannabis.
It’s a job sector that you won’t hear about in the government’s employment statistics (the federal government still refuses to officially count cannabis jobs), and your high school guidance counselor probably didn’t counsel you to look into this field, but cannabis is actually a great place to find your future career. This is true in multiple regions across the globe, but the United States has witnessed particularly rapid expansion in this industry.
With 66 percent of Americans supporting legalizing marijuana according to a national Gallup survey, there’s really no shame in pursuing a cannabis-related career in this day and age. The social stigma is quickly fading, and we’re even seeing family-friendly brand names like Coca-Cola expressing interest in the hugely popular cannabis market.
And now that adult recreational marijuana use is legal in 10 U.S. states and medical marijuana is legal in 33 states – thus providing 240 million Americans with access to legal cannabis – the machine has been set in motion and decriminalization has become the national norm:
Courtesy: Marijuana Policy Project
Other significant events, such as the passage of the $867 billion Farm Bill which legalized hemp in December of last year, along with the replacement of anti-marijuana Attorney General Jeff Sessions with the much more moderate William Barr (who has said that he’ll respect state marijuana laws), have paved the way for explosive growth of this exciting and highly lucrative industry.
We’re even seeing a whole new classification of marijuana legalization, beyond medical use and adult recreational use. It’s called social marijuana use, where adults are not just allowed to consume cannabis products, but are even permitted to do so in certain public settings, much like alcohol.
The state of Alaska has become a pioneer in this regard, as earlier this week Lieutenant Governor Kevin Myers signed a bill that will allow licensed dispensaries to open up social consumption sites for adults aged 21 and over. And so, starting in the middle of April, dispensaries throughout Alaska will be able to apply for an exclusive license to open a cannabis lounge section in their stores.
So clearly, decriminalization advocates are winning the war and the growing acceptance of cannabis products has translated to big profits for entrepreneurs, businesses, governments (who love the tax revenues), and investors. And for job seekers, as well as for anyone considering a career change in the coming years, robust cannabis industry profits equate to job opportunities that you might never have considered before.
The statistics are staggering: legal cannabis sales in the U.S. increased 34% in 2018, to $10.8 billion. As a result, the American legalized cannabis industry added 64,389 full-time jobs last year – enough people to fill Chicago’s Soldier Field, with 3,000 more tailgating outside.
Today, there are more than 211,000 full-time jobs in the legal American cannabis industry, though the number is actually closer to 296,000 when we include jobs that were indirectly added as a result of the legalized cannabis boom. Believe it or not, there are now more legal cannabis industry workers than dental hygienists in the United States.
While other industries are stagnating, cannabis is absolutely flourishing. To provide a comparison, while full-time cannabis workers total well above 200,000, there are only about 52,000 coal mining jobs in the United States; 69,000 brewery workers employed by beer makers; and 112,000 people working in textile manufacturing
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But that’s the present – what about the future? Can the current trajectory of legalized cannabis job growth possibly continue? After all, it’s well known that the alternative energy and health-care sectors are expected to see robust growth in the coming years; can the cannabis industry compete with these sectors?
Not only will the cannabis jobs market compete with other high-growth sectors like alternative energy and technology, but it will outperform them handily:
Courtesy: Whitney Economics, Leafly
From January 2017 to January 2020, cannabis jobs are projected to increase by 110%; they’re already up 75% in the past two years, so the 110% figure is actually a conservative estimate. Not to knock the tech, health-care, and alternative energy jobs markets, but they simply can’t compete with legalized cannabis.
You won’t hear about this from the government or the mainstream media because the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics refuses to count or report any of these job gains; evidently, they’re not fully prepared to accept the reality that the cannabis legalization movement is here to stay.
But irrespective of governmental and media biases, these job gains are 100% real: full-time, gainful employment – not lost to outsourcing or automation – allowing Americans to support themselves, their families, and their communities.
And pardon me if I shift from hard facts to subjective opinion for a moment, but even if deep, sustained economic recession were to hit the United States, legalized cannabis industry jobs do appear to be safer than jobs in many other sectors. After all, cannabis is considered an important medicinal source for many patients, and I expect it to become an integral part of the American health-care system over the next few years.
I also expect that over time, more policymakers will come to see the tremendous benefits provided by the burgeoning legalized cannabis market – not only in terms of job growth, but also in terms of the tax revenues that these states need so desperately:
Courtesy: Whitney Economics, Leafly
In the states where cannabis is already legal for adult recreational use and stores are open, the tax rate on sales of cannabis products is typically 10% to 37% above and beyond the local sales tax. And so, in these states literally tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues have been generated – funds that can be put to good use in education, infrastructure, health care, and other high-need areas.
For job seekers and career changers, these and other cannabis-friendly states are where legal cannabis industry jobs are to be found, with Arkansas (611% projected increase in cannabis jobs by January of 2020), Massachusetts (317% projected increase), Oklahoma (109%), Florida (50%), and California (21%) leading the way in terms of projected job growth.
Among the most in-demand jobs right now in the American legalized cannabis sector are dispensary store manager (with a typical annual salary range of $41,500 to $98,000), compliance manager ($45,000 to $149,000), director of extraction ($47,000 to $191,000), director of cultivation ($47,000 to $250,000+), and outside sales representative ($28,000 to $150,000), budtender ($12 to $16 per hour), and trimmer ($11.50 to $14.50 per hour).
It’s been said that job growth is the single most powerful indicator of a nation’s economic health. With unbelievable job growth ahead – and huge potential for career changers across the country – the legalized cannabis industry is precisely the medicine that America needs right now.
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