The US dagga industry grew insanely fast after decriminalisation — it now has more legal cannabis workers than dental hygienists

Business Insider US
  • The total number of job postings for the dagga industry in the US increased 445% in 2017, according to job-search website ZipRecruiter.
  • There are now more people working in the legal cannabis industry than there are dental hygienists in the US.
  • The legal cannabis industry could be a $21 billion industry by 2021 – more than R300 billion.

The legal dagga industry has some eye-popping job-growth numbers in the United States.

The total number of job postings for the cannabis industry increased by 445% in 2017, as a host of states — including Nevada and Massachusetts — legalised the plant for adult consumption. That's up from just 18% growth in 2016, according to a study from ZipRecruiter, a job-search website. 

Nine states and Washington D.C. have legalised cannabis in the US, though it's considered an illegal, Schedule I drug at the federal level. 

Because of that trend, there are now more dagga workers than dental hygienists in the US, according to Marijuana Business Daily, a financial-news publication focusing on the cannabis industry. The higher end of their estimate range suggests there were 230,000 people employed in the US legal cannabis industry in 2017, whereas there were 201,000 dental hygienists, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Job growth in the cannabis industry is now outpacing some of the fastest-growing fields in the US, including tech and healthcare. Job postings in the healthcare industry grew 70%  in 2017 while tech — defined as jobs in the software and IT space — rose by 254%, according to ZipRecruiter's data.

The pace of cannabis-industry job growth increased throughout 2017 as businesses went on a hiring spree to gear up for the start of legal sales in California, according to ZipRecruiter's chief economist, Cathy Barrera. (Marijuana became legal in that state on January 1.)

Cannabis jobs are mostly clustered in the industry's epicenters — Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Colorado, according to ZipRecruiter — as well as a few cities in Florida. Florida legalized medical cannabis in 2016. 

Cannabis could become a $21 billion industry in the US. 

Consumers spent around $9 billion on cannabis in 2017, according to the industry research firm BDS Analytics.

Now that marijuana is legal in California — by far the most populous state to legalise the drug — the report predicts the state will pull in over $5.1 billion in cannabis sales in 2018. For comparison, Californians bought $5 billion worth of beer in 2017, according to industry research group IBIS World.

Total spending on legal cannabis is expected to skyrocket to over $21 billion by 2021 for all US consumers, the BDS report says. Factoring in "indirect effects" of legal cannabis revenue, such as transactions between cannabis companies and businesses in other industries (like shipping, packaging, payroll processing, etc.), BDS Analytics expects legalised cannabis to inject close to $40 billion into the US economy by 2021, and add up to 413,988 jobs. 

The report, however, notes that forecasts about the cannabis business are difficult because its illegal status at the federal level means the federal government doesn't track data for the industry.

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