Legal US cannabis jobs increased by 161% over the last 4 years

Published Feb 28, 2021 02:00 p.m. ET
iStock / greenleaf123

There are less than a dozen US states left that have thus far chosen not to pass legislation to allow some form of cannabis. While we gear up for what’s to come, it’s just as important to recognize just how far America has come towards acceptance of the plant. We have many results from studies or polls that indicate support for the movement is improving in the US, but one of the best ways to measure its growth in real-time is by keeping track of the growing number of cannabis jobs.

The 2020 report

According to the latest report, which includes the results of research conducted with the help of Whitney Economics consulting firm, the green industry in the US grew quite a bit over 2020, with an additional 77,300 cannabis jobs. This number is a significant increase at 32% higher than what came to be in 2019, suggesting that a huge shift is already in motion, even if we can’t yet see it.

How many legal cannabis jobs are in the US today?

The legal cannabis industry in the United States supports an impressive 321,000 or equivalent jobs which span a total of 37 states. Though these numbers might seem small, this new market is now creating jobs in cannabis faster than any other industry. Since 2017 in the US, the cannabis industry has grown by an average of 27.5% each year, an incredible feat when you consider the fact that the plant is still illegal federally.

Pandemic fallout

The pandemic wreaked havoc on the US economy shuttering thousands of businesses forever, with only the strongest survivors still hanging on to hope by a thread. It hurt almost every industry, still, though cannabis has certainly made it through some ups and downs over this last year, green businesses seem to have made it out of this mess relatively unscathed, as growth in this past year's legally supported cannabis jobs proves.

States that added the most cannabis jobs

Growth in legal cannabis is growing steadily right across the United States, but some areas added an exceptional number of new cannabis jobs to the market, including:

California: 23,707

Florida: 14,891

Michigan: 9,216

Illinois: 8,348

Pennsylvania: 7,188

What do we mean by cannabis jobs?

When we measure cannabis jobs in this case, the numbers are counted by gathering data from licensed retail establishments as well as production facilities, so they include everything from your average small-scale grower to dispensary jobs, like budtender or janitor.

The largest legal cannabis markets in the US

According to the report mentioned above, the cannabis industry in the United States is now worth $18.3 billion, with much of the activity congregating in more progressive states. Three, in particular, stand out as supporting by far the most cannabis jobs, and they are:


This state is America’s largest market, supporting approximately 58,000 jobs while bringing in $2.28 billion in cannabis sales.


The popular 420-friendly tourist destination Colorado is home to the second most robust cannabis market, supporting 35,539 jobs and reporting $2.28 billion in green sales.


Florida is the only state of the top 3 that currently prohibits recreational use, and yet still, it manages to boast the third biggest market with 31,444 cannabis jobs and $1.2 billion in sales just this past year.

Optimism grows for federal reform

Newly elected President Joe Biden hasn’t exactly promised a bustling or lucrative future for US cannabis, but in the past, he has expressed support for medicinal access to become legal according to federal law. It’s not quite the rosy beginning that some advocates had hoped for, still, many advocates and consumers across the United States and all over the world celebrated his victory as the first of many small steps towards countrywide marijuana reform.

The industry didn’t need legal cannabis to get excited, and neither did investors who funneled millions into pot stocks, a glimmer of hope amid a gloomy pandemic and immediately following one of the most controversial presidential elections in history. Federal legalization in the US would mean even more cannabis jobs as well as the opening of a door to what will someday lead us to the holy grail, a global green economy,

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