It was once believed that marijuana smokers would end up becoming the largest welfare-sucking tribe of ingrates the United States has ever seen. Turns out, we're an economic boon.
Back in the day, the consensus among the conservative class — the cops, educators and the politicians — was that all of the stoners rolling around the hallways of high schools red-eyed and rebellious, dressed in heavy metal T-shirts and skipping shop class to get high with like-minded losers, would have no other option but to slide out into the real world on an old couch covered in Doritos crumbs and bong water. In their minds, the doobie dregs were hopeless.
But that's not the way it went down.
Now, with only a handful of states having gone fully legal, the business of growing and selling pot has become a multi-billion marketplace that has not only given federal legalization some traction in the halls of Congress, but is apparently creating jobs at a rate above any other business sector in the nation.
A new report from the folks at Leafly and Whitney Economic shows the cannabis industry created 64,389 new jobs in 2018. This represents an increase of around 44 percent from the previous year.
Crickets From the White House
One would think that President Donald Trump, a man who vowed to create 25 million new jobs during his time in office, would latch onto legal weed, push to take it nationwide and make himself a legend. After all, even in its limited capacity, there are now some 211,000 people collecting a paycheck simply because marijuana is no longer prohibited in their neck of the woods. That number, however, shoots up to around 296,000 when factoring in ancillary positions, contractors and other non-cannabis related operations.
Indeed, at least some of the economic boost that this country has experienced as of late is perhaps in part thanks to the cannabis trade. You have to stop and think: Long before the first cannabis purchase is made anywhere, realtors, electricians and air conditioning experts must get these businesses ready to open their doors. So while legalization is a huge deal for those who have been in the trenches of the marijuana movement for years, rest assured there are a lot more people reaping the benefits.
Hundreds of thousands of workers is a heck of a lot of gainfully employed people for a plant that continues to be outlawed by the federal government. In fact, since weed is still considered a Schedule I dangerous drug, the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't count these positions when calculating overall job growth in the U.S.
Therefore, it stands to reason that once legalization takes hold nationwide, the country will enter a new realm of vitality — at least on paper. If Trump is still in office at that time, you had better believe he'll take credit.
Although the president often professes his desire to resurrect the coal industry, the truth of the matter is this dinosaur sector has been dead for a long time — and it isn't doing diddly squat in comparison to retail weed. There are roughly only around 52,000 coal mining jobs left in the United States. This means the jobs added to the cannabis sector in 2018 alone has already surpassed the ghost of coal.
Even the nation's alcohol producers, who are still part of a highly lucrative industry, are not employing a workforce comparable to the cannabis trade. The report finds there are only 69,000 people making beer to support their families these days.
Get a Job, Hippies! Oh, Wait…
It's pathetic, really, that our nation's leaders are still hanging on to the past so hard that they cannot see the future.
Marijuana legalization is not only a huge job creator in the beginning stages, but it also continues to this trend for many years after the fact.
"It's been five years since Colorado and Washington opened their first adult-use retail cannabis stores, and we're just now seeing a slowing in the rate of cannabis growth in those two states," the report says.
Better than that, these positions pay an average of 11 percent more than the median U.S. salary. There have been reports over the past couple of years that restaurants and other minimum wage sectors have been losing workers to the cannabis industry. It seems the once dregs of society have stepped up and done what the country has struggled to do for decades: figured out how to keep the economic pulse of the nation thumping, even while losing crucial industries (coal and manufacturing) to foreign lands. In fact, marijuana is the only new industry that technically takes jobs out of Mexico and gives them to the American people. Why Trump hasn't recognized this yet is beyond us.
But maybe he will see it soon.
The report shows that if the cannabis job sector continues to grow at even a conservative pace, there will be a 110 percent growth over the next three years.
This article first appeared on Cannabis Now.
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Mark Bernberg is a long-time cannabis investing enthusiast and founder of The Green Fund, Asia Pacific's preeminent media house, positioned at the forefront of the global cannabis industry.