The cannabis industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the U.S. economy, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country. According to a recent report by StratCann, a leading cannabis news and analysis platform, the cannabis job market has seen significant growth and diversification in 2024, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the federal prohibition of cannabis. In this article, we will explore some of the key trends and developments in the cannabis employment landscape, as well as the opportunities and challenges for cannabis workers and employers.
Cannabis Jobs by State: California Leads the Way
The cannabis industry operates in 25 adult-use states and territories and 39 medical-only states, with more states expected to legalize cannabis in the near future. However, not all states have the same level of cannabis activity and employment. According to StratCann, the top 10 states for cannabis jobs in 2024 are:
- California: 83,607
- Colorado: 38,337
- Michigan: 31,152
- Illinois: 28,992
- Massachusetts: 27,120
- Pennsylvania: 26,932
- Florida: 25,895
- Arizona: 23,333
- Washington: 22,516
- Oregon: 19,938
California remains the largest and most mature cannabis market in the country, accounting for about 20% of all cannabis jobs. The state has a robust and diverse cannabis industry, ranging from cultivation and manufacturing to retail and distribution. California also has a strong cannabis culture and history, as well as a supportive regulatory environment and consumer base.
Colorado is the second-largest cannabis employer, with more than 38,000 cannabis workers. The state was one of the first to legalize cannabis for adult use in 2012, and has since established a stable and competitive cannabis industry. Colorado is known for its high-quality cannabis products and innovation, as well as its strict testing and safety standards.
Michigan is the third-largest cannabis employer, with more than 31,000 cannabis jobs. The state legalized cannabis for adult use in 2018, and has seen a rapid growth in cannabis sales and employment since then. Michigan has a large and diverse cannabis consumer base, as well as a favorable climate and soil for cannabis cultivation.
Cannabis Jobs by Sector: From Seed to Sale
The cannabis industry is composed of various sectors that cover the entire supply chain of cannabis, from seed to sale. These sectors include cultivation, manufacturing, retail, distribution, testing, and ancillary services. Each sector has different types of jobs, skills, and requirements, as well as different levels of demand and compensation.
According to StratCann, the most in-demand cannabis jobs in 2024 are:
- Cultivation Technician: A cultivation technician is responsible for planting, watering, pruning, harvesting, and processing cannabis plants. They also monitor and maintain the optimal growing conditions, such as temperature, humidity, lighting, and nutrients. A cultivation technician typically works in a greenhouse, indoor facility, or outdoor farm, and requires knowledge of cannabis strains, plant biology, and cultivation techniques.
- Extraction Technician: An extraction technician is responsible for extracting and refining cannabis oils and concentrates from cannabis plant material. They use various methods and equipment, such as CO2, ethanol, butane, or rosin, to produce cannabis products such as shatter, wax, crumble, or distillate. An extraction technician typically works in a laboratory, and requires knowledge of chemistry, safety, and quality control.
- Dispensary Manager: A dispensary manager is responsible for overseeing and managing the daily operations of a cannabis retail store. They supervise and train the staff, handle the inventory and cash flow, ensure compliance with state and local regulations, and provide customer service and education. A dispensary manager typically works in a storefront, and requires knowledge of cannabis products, sales, and marketing, as well as leadership and communication skills.
- Packaging Manager: A packaging manager is responsible for overseeing and managing the packaging and labeling of cannabis products. They ensure that the packaging meets the state and local requirements, as well as the company’s standards and branding. They also coordinate with the production and distribution teams, and manage the packaging staff and equipment. A packaging manager typically works in a warehouse or facility, and requires knowledge of packaging design, materials, and machinery, as well as organizational and problem-solving skills.
- Production Manager: A production manager is responsible for overseeing and managing the production of cannabis products. They plan and coordinate the production schedule, budget, and resources, and ensure that the production meets the quality and safety standards. They also liaise with the cultivation, extraction, testing, and distribution teams, and manage the production staff and equipment. A production manager typically works in a facility or laboratory, and requires knowledge of cannabis products, production processes, and regulations, as well as leadership and management skills.
Cannabis Jobs by Salary: Competitive and Diverse
The cannabis industry offers competitive and diverse salaries for its workers, depending on the sector, position, location, and experience. According to StratCann, the average cannabis salary in 2024 is $52,857, which is higher than the national average of $51,168. However, cannabis salaries vary widely across the industry, ranging from $26,500 for a cultivation technician to $143,350 for a director of cultivation.
Some of the factors that influence cannabis salaries are:
- Sector: The cannabis sector determines the type and level of work involved, as well as the supply and demand of workers. Generally, sectors that require more specialized skills and education, such as extraction and testing, tend to pay higher than sectors that require less, such as cultivation and retail.
- Position: The position determines the role and responsibility of the worker, as well as the level of authority and supervision. Generally, positions that require more leadership and management skills, such as directors and managers, tend to pay higher than positions that require less, such as technicians and budtenders.
- Location: The location determines the cost of living and the market size of the cannabis industry. Generally, locations that have higher costs of living and larger cannabis markets, such as California and Colorado, tend to pay higher than locations that have lower costs of living and smaller cannabis markets, such as Oregon and Arizona.
- Experience: The experience determines the level of knowledge and skills of the worker, as well as the reputation and network. Generally, workers who have more years of experience and proven track record in the cannabis industry, tend to pay higher than workers who have less or no experience.
Cannabis Jobs by Future: Opportunities and Challenges
The cannabis industry is expected to continue growing and creating more jobs in the future, as more states legalize cannabis and more consumers demand cannabis products. According to a report by New Frontier Data, a leading cannabis data and analytics firm, the cannabis industry could create 1.6 million jobs by 2025, and generate $92 billion in tax revenue by 2030.
However, the cannabis industry also faces some challenges and uncertainties that could affect its employment outlook, such as:
- Federal Prohibition: Cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, which creates legal and financial barriers for cannabis businesses and workers. For example, cannabis businesses cannot access federal banking services, loans, or grants, and cannabis workers cannot claim federal benefits, such as unemployment or health insurance. Moreover, cannabis businesses and workers are subject to federal raids, seizures, and prosecutions, which create risks and uncertainties for the industry.
- COVID-19 Pandemic: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the cannabis industry in various ways, both positively and negatively. On the positive side, the pandemic has increased the demand and sales of cannabis products, as more consumers use cannabis for medical or recreational purposes. The pandemic has also highlighted the essential nature of the cannabis industry, as most states have allowed cannabis businesses to operate during the lockdowns. On the negative side, the pandemic has disrupted the supply chain and operations of cannabis businesses, as well as the health and safety of cannabis workers. The pandemic has also delayed or postponed the legalization and regulation of cannabis in some states, which could affect the growth and development of the industry.
- Competition and Consolidation: The cannabis industry is becoming more competitive and consolidated, as more players enter the market and more mergers and acquisitions occur. This could create opportunities and challenges for cannabis workers, depending on their position and sector. For example, workers who have more skills and experience, or work in more specialized sectors, could benefit from more job options and higher salaries. However, workers who have less skills and experience, or work in more saturated sectors, could face more job competition and lower salaries.
The cannabis industry is a dynamic and diverse sector that offers many job opportunities and challenges for workers and employers. The cannabis job market is growing and evolving, as more states legalize cannabis and more consumers demand cannabis products. The cannabis industry is also facing some challenges and uncertainties, such as the federal prohibition, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the competition and consolidation. The cannabis industry requires workers who are passionate, adaptable, and knowledgeable about cannabis, as well as the laws and regulations that govern it. The cannabis industry also rewards workers who are innovative, creative, and professional, as well as the products and services that they provide.