Cannabis Creates Jobs: How Recreational Cannabis Is Boosting Oregon’s Economy

Since recreational cannabis products became legal to sell in July 2015, the cannabis industry has been racing to adjust to the freshly-opened market. It wasn’t until October of the same year that sales through existing dispensaries began, however, and the data from that period is only just becoming available over half a year later. This data provides an informed look at how the industry has been shaped since then, and more importantly, what the future may look like.

New Jobs in the Cannabis Industry

One of the best items of information coming out of the Oregon Job Report data analysis is that the new regulations have created jobs. According to a survey of dispensaries registered with the Oregon Health Authority, 2,156 individual full- and part-time jobs were created during this time frame, generating about $46 million in wages.

According to the same report, the retail flower market in Oregon is valued at $300 million in total. This may not seem like a large amount of money when dealing with state-wide economics, but it’s surprisingly robust growth for 8 months of legal sales. The consensus around cannabis, coming from local and state economic authorities, is that it has serious potential to improve Oregon’s economy.

What It’s Like to Work with Weed

From a jobs-creation point of view, the Oregon cannabis industry is not performing very differently than its parallels in other areas throughout the world with similarly relaxed laws. However, many in the local industry believe that there is much more room for growth here, and some of the statistics indicate the same.

For example, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, there is an average of 6 employees per dispensary, who work an average of 186 hours per week. The average wage these workers share is almost $12 per hour, yet barely 10% of them enjoy health insurance coverage through their employers. As compliance becomes more important, we are going to see a competitive field arise where top-producing employers are challenging one another over the best talent.

Another important consideration for long-term job growth is the ability to grow your own cannabis. There are regulations in place to allow caretakers to grow up to six plants for medical patients at a time, according to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, and nobody is certain how this will translate to a large-scale recreational market.

State-wide Predictions

Assuming the industry enjoys conservative growth throughout 2016 and 2017, it is easy to imagine more than $100 million being added to state’s GDP, which approaches 1% of the entire sum. From a business point of view, cannabis is an emerging industry that is ready to be expanded and invested in. Politicians such as Oregon Rep. Ann Lininger are doing everything they can to ensure the industry develops into one that shows, “strong compliance and professionalism”, becoming a “positive addition to a community’s jobs base.”

There are reasons to believe that growth may be more rapid in the coming months. For instance, the fact that cannabis industry already employs about 50 percent more people than the state alcohol industry shows that rapid growth might be imminent. At the moment, retail alcohol sales far exceed cannabis sales, but the effects of recreational legalization could easily change that.

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