Critics of marijuana legalization are often tight-lipped about its potential for job generation. Ironic, then, that unemployment is still one of the major talking points in any economic discussion today. The truth is that the marijuana industry has the potential to employ thousands of people, to say nothing of what taxed sales of the plant can do for the economy.
The Demand for Pot
In February 2014 alone, Colorado raked in over $3 million in marijuana-related tax revenue. That there’s demand for legal pot is not up for debate. According to the Colorado state government, the annual demand for the plant in the area could exceed 130 metric tons. To the West, in Washington, the price of legal pot is expected to debut higher than most economists predicted.
A poor 2013 harvest of legal weed means that supply will likely exceed demand, and some experts believe that the state will sell its supply of buds within a few days. According to The Seattle Times, the Liquor Control Board was slow to issue licenses, resulting in the poor harvest. Sea of Green Farms co-owner Bob Leeds claims that it could be years before Washington is able to meet demand.
Meanwhile, nationwide surveys report that around 35% of marijuana users smoke once or twice a month, but that this group only makes up around percent of the entire pot market. The implication is clear: most of the sales that Colorado is enjoying comes from enthusiasts. These cannabis aficionados also provide most of the sales of weed accessories, and while their numbers aren’t staggering, they collectively represent millions in revenue. Numerous up-and-coming cannaprenuers plan to leverage this demand.
Many of these companies are offering jobs to strapped-for-cash college students. Josh Meisel, co-director of the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research, sums it up this way: “College students facing more costly tuition see employment opportunities in cultivation and distribution.” Meisel, based in California, expects the marijuana-related workforce in states that have legalized pot to be made up primarily of students. Indeed, California startup WeGrow makes no bones about its penchant for hiring 20-somethings. Considered by many to be “the Walmart of weed,” WeGrow has four stores nationwide as of 2014, and each new store represents around 75 jobs.
Weed is a labor-intensive cash crop. The quality of the crop depends very much on environmental factors that must be carefully maintained. What’s more, the buds are sticky, and the plants produce a very strong odor that can prove nauseating to some. Here are a few of the jobs the industry will produce.
- The budtender. The budtender takes orders from customers, often helping the customer select a strain that will meet their needs. There are hundreds of marijuana strains, and some, like those low in THC but high in CBD, aren’t a good match for tokers looking to get high. These strains, such as Charlotte’s Web, have been engineered to address specific health issues. Budtenders are experts in the plant and can educate users about the potency of particular strains.
- The marijuana journalist. Cannapreneurs will need content creators that can put the budding marijuana industry in a positive light while addressing public concerns. News sites in Colorado and Washington, in particular, will need qualified writers to put a polished spin on the entire endeavor.
- The public relations officer. When journalists aren’t enough to quell public concerns, business owners will turn to trained public relations experts. The need for these professionals will diminish as time goes by, though.
- The grow site operator. This individual oversees the grow site itself. This person is at the helm of the operation and oversees a team of hydroponic specialists. The grow site operator calls the shots when it comes to supply acquisition, hydroponic procedures and new hires.
- The edibles specialist. This chef is an expert in all marijuana-infused delicacies.
- The trimmer. The trimmer harvests buds from the marijuana plant’s leafy stalks and dries them. The job can be tedious as the buds are quite sticky and can be difficult to pick. Trimmers are typically paid by the hour and must have a high tolerance for the instantly-recognizable aroma that cannabis produces.
These are but a few of the jobs that the marijuana industry will create. As more states legalize pot, the marijuana industry has the potential to compete or even surpass the alcohol and tobacco industries.