Millennials Take Leap into Legal Cannabis

by | May 16, 2019

Written by Jessica McKeil

Jessica McKeil is a cannabis writer and B2B content marketer living in British Columbia, Canada. Her focus on cannabis tech, scientific breakthroughs, and extraction has led to bylines with Cannabis & Tech Today, Terpenes and Testing, Analytical Cannabis, and Grow Mag among others She is the owner and lead-writer of Sea to Sky Content, which provides content and strategy to the industry’s biggest brands.

With a unique marriage of cannabis and technology, most of the office at springbig, located in the booming cannabis market of Boca Raton, Florida, is already comprised of mostly millennials. Defined as those between the ages of 23 and 38 in 2019, Natalie Shaul, the company’s VP of Marketing admits to having a biased opinion being a millennial herself, but stated, “[Millennials] grew up immersed in technology – I was learning how to use a Mac in kindergarten, and by middle school, I was learning Photoshop.” Ultimately, Shaul believes it’s this lifelong technology immersion, which makes the generation faster at harnessing new ideas and processes, which aligns well with the software and technology-driven atmosphere in the legal cannabis industry.

Growing from just nine employees last year, springbig expects to have more than 50 by the end of the year. While the company is focused on servicing the cannabis industry, it is not a requirement to have previous experience in the field. “We don’t look for cannabis backgrounds specifically,” Shaul advised. “We look for passion and drive.” She continued, “Many of our department heads started off as interns – college kids who grew into their positions. For us, it’s about passion, drive, and culture.”

However, in a market growing as fast as cannabis, the millennials aren’t the only ones benefiting.

Everyone Benefits from Job Growth

Karson Humiston, the founder, and CEO of Vangst, a cannabis recruitment agency, recently confirmed that the cannabis sector is “a candidate's market” in an interview with Marijuana Business Daily. She explains that on the East Coast and West Coast, there are more jobs available than ever before, and salaries are on the rise. Cannabis is a lucrative career choice with many possibilities beyond the trimmer and budtender positions of the past.  From technological innovation to cultivation, the cannabis industry is booming and ready to hire.

While it's easy to brush off comments by Humiston as wishful thinking, the numbers don't lie. Vangst may be a cannabis recruitment agency promoting cannabis job growth, but the numbers were building well before they entered into the field. Humiston and Vangst are just riding the wave of new cannabis job opportunities. Here is a look at the statistics on cannabis jobs from the last two years of growth.

The Rise of the Cannabis Job Sector by the Numbers

In the United States, it's hard to get a solid outlook on the cannabis industry at the federal level. The federal government, adamant in its aversion to legal cannabis, refuses to summarize cannabis statistics like it would for coal, agriculture, or any other conventional job market.

Despite the lack of information from the feds, over the last two years, certain outlets have taken it on themselves to collect, analyze, and publish their findings. Pooled, the astronomical rise of the cannabis workforce is evident. It's more than just an anomaly – the cannabis sector significantly contributes to the American economy and has played a part in the historically low unemployment ratings of 2019.

211,000 Cannabis Jobs and Counting

Thanks to a joint effort from Leafly and Whitney economics firm, we can now see the full implications on job numbers from the cannabis industry. Through a detailed analysis of the jobs numbers from each legalized state, the Leafy report estimates there are 211,000 cannabis-related jobs across the US. In 2018 alone, the country added 64,000 new cannabis jobs.

California is leading the charge with an expected 10,000 new jobs coming in 2019. Four other states are also witnessing a cannabis boom including Nevada, Pennsylvania, Florida, and New York.

In addition to the legal cannabis jobs included in Leafly's final count, they also estimate another 85,000 jobs across indirect sectors. As an interesting aside, they note there are now more legal cannabis-related jobs in the US than there are dental hygienists.

Women Makeup Close to 40 Percent of the Workforce

The cannabis sector is increasingly female. According to a recent industry survey by Vangst, women make up 38.6 percent of the cannabis industry. As a quick comparison with other sectors, women only account for 20 percent of the workforce in the tech industry, 25 percent in agriculture, and 26 percent in the alcohol, beverage, and tobacco industries.

There is a definite crossover between cannabis with tech, agriculture, and recreational beverages – which it helps break through common misconceptions about women in the workforce. We've all heard the argument that women aren't well suited to these other male-dominated industries.

Another argument tells us there aren't enough educated women educated with these specialties. Tell that to any of the women cultivating cannabis, or working on software platforms for dispensaries. It seems as if the cannabis industry is ready and willing to hire women while other sectors languish in outdated ideas of employment.

A 690 Percent Increase in Cannabis Jobs

Any way you crunch the numbers, it's clear that the cannabis sector is on the prowl. Vangst, as a recruitment agency, has first-hand experience with the recent surge in positions. By their own numbers, they experienced a 690 percent increase in jobs listings from 2017 to 2018. They predict another 220 percent increase for 2019.

The Leafly report also predicts substantial workforce gains in cannabis. They predict 110 percent gains in the workforce from 2017 to 2020. As more states pass cannabis-friendly legislation, this conservative figure on workforce gains across the US is likely to spike well before 2020.

$7.25 Per Hour Versus $13 – No Comparison in Average Wages

The federal minimum wage in the US is $7.25 per hour. The average salary for a budtender is nearly double $13 per hour. Another entry-level position, a trimmer receives $12.50 per hour on average. Both these entry-level positions highlight how the highly competitive cannabis job market is convincing people to make a move. Again, to hark back to Humiston's comments, the cannabis job market is “a candidate's market.”

It's not just the entry-level positions that are convincing people to move to cannabis. A compliance manager in a cannabis position makes $10,000 more in annual salary than in other industries on average. A dispensary store manager should expect a pay range between $41,500 and $98,0000. On the flip side,  a retail store manager should expect a starting salary of $31,000 and cap out at $64,000.  It pays to work in cannabis.

With 34 legalized states and at least ten recreational ones, the cannabis sector operates across the majority of the country. From seed to sale, cultivators, processors, and retail stores are hiring. While the federal government chooses to ignore the influence this sector has on the economic health of the country, they are choosing to ignore the facts. Ask any of the 211,000 people countrywide who currently work directly with cannabis – these numbers don't lie.