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Cannabis job growth projected to outpace all other fast-growing industries

Cannabis job growth projected to outpace all other fast-growing industries

A new report by cannabis website Leafly estimates that employment in the U.S. cannabis industry now tops 243,700 full-time-equivalent employees as of early 2020, reflecting an annual increase of 15%.

That figure means there are nearly three times more people working in the space than in beverage and tobacco manufacturing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Marijuana jobs in Ohio itself amount to at least 2,637 today, according to figures provided by state agencies.

Of course, the federal government doesn’t count cannabis jobs, as Leafly likes to point out. That’s why the organization started doing so years ago and why others have followed suit, collecting their own data.

It’s worth noting that 15% annual increase overall is a pretty striking number on its own, although it actually reflects a slowing in growth: Jobs between 2018-19 surged by 62%, by Leafly’s count.

Despite that, an analysis by Leafly in its 2020 jobs report predicts growth in cannabis jobs will significantly outpace all of the other fastest-growing occupations in America between 2018-28, from solar panel installers and wind turbine techs to nurse practitioners and home health aides.

The Leafly report also looks at employment in every state with some kind of marijuana program. Here’s Leafly’s take on Ohio: With more than 78,000 patients but only $56 million in 2019 sales, the story here is limited access. As more dispensaries open in 2020, we expect Ohio sales to grow significantly. Late 2019 and early 2020 data indicate it’s already happening — we now see Ohio as a $220 million total market supporting 4,275 jobs.

It’s unclear exactly how Leafly comes up with its numbers, though the phrasing in its report suggests that 4,275 job count for Ohio would come once the state reaches $220 million in annual sales.

Could cannabis jobs also refer to current or projected jobs in hemp or CBD product manufacturing, for example, or marijuana-related businesses predominantly serving that industry? A request to the organization to clarify its Ohio figures and how the group counts jobs per its methodology has not yet been addressed.

Regardless, the Ohio Department of Commerce and Board of Pharmacy — the first oversees the state-licensed operations of marijuana cultivating and processing, while the second regulates dispensaries — reported 1,686 and 951 active employees, respectively, at the end of January; for a total of 2,637 jobs in Ohio’s medical marijuana sector today.

Though they serve as a barometer for the industry in the absence of federal data, job and sales projections for the cannabis industry tend to vary widely among the organizations attempting to track them and their trajectories.

New Frontier Data, for example, estimated in its 2019 report on cannabis-related jobs and tax revenue that the industry provided 340,344 jobs in 2019. That figure jumps nearly 120% by 2025, according to its projections. And that’s without any other states creating programs and federal prohibition remaining in place, all of which could lift that figure higher.

At any rate, Ohio’s industry has a ways to go to reach $220 million in annual sales in what remains one of the country’s most heavily regulated programs. Those strict regulations — which led to a slow rollout and development of the medical marijuana industry — may be at the root of why Ohio’s program is achieving lackluster sales, especially when set against other comparable markets. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s seemingly anti-cannabis views are unlikely to be of much help to the industry as it looks to state regulators for support.

Whatever the marijuana jobs figures look like today — with some businesses yet to come online and with the medical market here yet to reach full patient buy-in — the industry’s role in the state workforce should only continue to grow from here.


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