We at IrieCBD tend to spend a lot of time talking about all the good cannabidiol can do for the body (it’s a lot!) but we also wholeheartedly believe in the good cannabis can do in the world. Individual health and community health are interconnected, and healthy, ground up economics are a huge part of what the legal cannabis industry can help grow.
Analyzing this economic growth in such a new industry is challenging, but it is a challenge many organizations have begun to tackle, especially as the booming revenues, and huge employment gains in states with legal cannabis are changing the discussion around legal access.
In January of this year, Leafly began accumulating and organizing data on jobs in the industry, and it paints a pretty fascinating picture. At the beginning of their research, they estimated 122,814 Full Time Legal Cannabis jobs existed in the country.
This number is an estimate, as it is actually quite difficult to gather employment data nationwide on jobs in the cannabis industry. This is because the federal government does not allow cannabis jobs to be categorized and included in statistical analysis of the US economy, excluding it from the National American Industry Classification System, or NAICS. As described by the United States Census Bureau:
“The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy.”
The cannabis industry is not classified by the NAICS, and so nationwide employment data, usually collected and published by the NAICS, ignores all (completely legal) cannabis related job numbers.
This phenomenon has been examined by Leafly and other news outlets, as journalists seek to explain how it is the Federal Government continues to claim that zero legal cannabis jobs exist. Ironically of course, all of the 122,814 estimated individuals working in the industry are not only tax paying citizens, but are both individually and collectively engines of huge economic empowerment in their locales.
Not only is this lack of NAICS classification leaving a huge gap in accurate employment data used by federal government agencies and officials, it leaves the cannabis industry vulnerable to policy proposals by Jeff Sessions and other prohibition supporters that seek to minimize the huge economic benefit that has been created in states like Washington, Colorado and Oregon. These states have seen legalization lead to not only state revenue increases but some of the lowest unemployment rates since the recession (In June 2017 Oregon’s unemployement rate was 3.7%, a full .7 points lower than the national average).
Documenting these jobs is urgently important, as the industry rallies against the Sessions task force aiming to curtail and repeal legalization efforts. And the employment these jobs represents is wide ranging, from the farmers in Washington that made cannabis the state’s second most valuable farmed commodity (surpassed only by its apple crop) to the budtenders, botanists, marketing professionals, web developers, writers, and small business owners that make up the army of workers it takes to build a multi-faceted industry.
State by state, some data is being collected. As each legal state has an entirely unique regulatory framework, transferring estimated job numbers from one state to another based on revenue estimates is not necessarily accurate, but it can lead to some general estimates. (See how Leafly did this to come up with the estimated job numbers above here.)
Colorado’s Marijuana Policy Group is perhaps one of the industry leaders in aggregating revenue data to estimate job numbers. Their October 2016 report used what they called The Marijuana Impact Model to collect data and present a holistic view of legal cannabis related economic activity in the state. Their report stated:
“Using this model, the MPG finds that legal marijuana activities generated $2.39 billion in state output, and created 18,005 new FullTime-Equivalent (FTE) positions in 2015.”
In 2016, the state sales reached 1.33 billion, so estimated job numbers would be increased (these increases have continued in 2017).
The Marijuana Policy Group’s report also included another deeply important statement, and one that should be taken into account by those campaigning for access to cannabis products both within specific states and on a national level:
“Because the industry is wholly confined within Colorado, spending on marijuana creates more output and employment per dollar spent than 90 percent of Colorado industries.”
(You can read the full report here.)
Summed up in this economic impact statement is a profoundly powerful reality; states that have legal adult access, while their jobs may not be recognized by the NAICS and the federal government, are actually creating MORE local employment opportunities, revenue, and economic empowerment for the nation’s “main streets” than practically any other industry out there.
That is the kind of community health that the cannabis industry has the capability of spreading, and it is worth taking note of. Because healing can and should happen on all levels, and we believe in healthy bodies living in healthy towns, states and countries. As Jeff Sessions promises more intense crackdowns, the industry needs more than ever to gather this data and spread the truth these numbers tell: we’re onto something good.