The Cannabis ContributionAs the unemployment rate in the United States dips to historic lows, growth in the legal cannabis market could indicate an unprecedented opportunity.
You don’t have to follow Donald Trump’s Twitter account to know the US unemployment rate in September dipped to levels unseen since 1969. While these historic statistics are certainly a move in the right direction for the US economy with multiple industries reporting employment increases, much of the growth may be coming from a very unlikely source – marijuana. Although once considered counterproductive and even demotivational, hundreds of thousands of jobs are being created as the cannabis industry expands.
In a conversation with Davyd Smith, CTO at Vangst, a cannabis-centric recruiting agency based in Denver, CO, he referred to their own “Industry Insights” report which not only showed a 690% increase in job growth in the prolific sector, but more than a 16% increase in salary between 2017 and 2018 for existing roles. “There’s certainly no lack of jobs,” Smith stated. From direct hire positions, seasonal, and even temp personnel, Vangst has seen significant growth in employment opportunities within the cannabis arena. According to their website, Vangst helped over 7500 people find a career in cannabis and currently has nearly 400 open positions to fill.
Cannabis-specific recruiting agencies aren’t the only ones reporting dynamic growth thanks to the demanding cannabis market. During an interview, last Spring on C-Span, Ian Siegal, CEO at ZipRecruiter, almost cringed as he told Brian Kelly and the onlooking audience about the current state of employment in the United States,
“Nobody will like it when I say this… the fastest growing jobs category is Marijuana [with] 445% job growth year over year,” Siegal stated. He went on to put the astronomical number into perspective for the audience by pointing out technology job growth is in second place with just 245% growth. Additionally, the increase in the legal cannabis industry makes the 70% growth in the healthcare industry look downright dismal.
In fact, according to a report published by the employment firm at the end of last year, job postings in the fourth quarter of 2017 indicated nearly 700% growth year over year with 79% growth quarter over quarter. Although a portion of the dramatic increase may be attributed to California’s recreational legalization in 2018, the trend clearly shows ample opportunity as other states consider adding legalization initiatives to their ballots.
Employment estimates by Marijuana Business Daily indicate approximately 160,000 people worked in cannabis as of June of this year (2018). At the same time, BDS Analytics and ArcView Market Research also released a report with a bold prediction for the future. In their 6th Edition of The State of Legal Marijuana Markets, researchers estimate nearly a half-million people will work in the cannabis industry, and its ancillary businesses, by 2022. Let’s put that number into perspective: As of today, there are less than 6 million unemployed people in the United States, a 6-8% reduction in that figure is significant.
In Spite of Obstacles
Maybe one of the most fascinating aspects of legalization is considering the industry is experiencing this explosive growth in spite of contradictory laws and the inherent risks associated with the controversial industry. While just nine states currently allow adult-use, one can only anticipate what the market and job potential would be if the United States followed in the footsteps of our northern neighbor and made cannabis consumption legal across the board. Without providing equal opportunity within the US Cannabis industry, the unbridled opportunity in Canada could potentially present backlash to the United States market.
Drawing from Ground Zero
With Colorado on the forefront of recreational cannabis, the increased demand for experience could create a potential talent drain on the established cannabis industry. “We’ve already seen it to a certain extent,” Smith said. “When California legalized recreational, many companies recruited from Colorado.” However, Smith warns, the nationwide legalization in Canada may present an even more substantial talent drain as Canadian entrepreneurs and producers look to build new, or expand existing, cannabis operations with established personnel.
Today, Smith advises, cannabis industry businesses should focus on more than just recruiting – retaining quality employees is also vitally important, especially as other legal markets come online. As the US industry continues to expand, experienced professionals are starting to draw top dollar salaries. Smith recalled, “When we were just getting started there were no jobs in the cannabis industry over $100,000, yet today they are commonplace.”
Meanwhile, with more than 64% of Americans agreeing on cannabis legalization, the question regarding national legalization becomes a question of when, not if. For those willing to take the risk, cannabis futures are looking bright.