The numbers are in and it’s official — if you’re against cannabis legalization, then you’re against economic stimulation.
“Cannabis is a job-creation machine,” says Oregon Economist Beau Whitney, leader of the statewide economic study that shows $1.2 billion of economic activity in Oregon thanks to recreational marijuana legalization.
Since adult-use cannabis legalization passed in Oregon a year ago, over 900 cannabis businesses have been licensed. Still, 1,225 applicants await approval, for a total of 2,142 possible licensed businesses.
The cannabis businesses that are currently licensed are responsible for creating 12,500 jobs within the last year “directly related to the growing, processing, testing, and sale of marijuana,” states a report from Whitney. And these are only jobs that directly touch the cannabis plant, excluding “auxiliary businesses such as security, regulatory, accounting, consulting, real estate, etc.” Whitney expressed he believes these numbers are still very conservative.
Nevertheless, including just the number of jobs created from businesses directly involved with the cannabis plant, Oregon has generated $315 million in wages over the last year (at an average of about $12/hour). And because employed, economically happy people like to spend more money within their community, Whitney explains, “With a multiplier of 4, this implies that there is $1.2 billion in economic activity related to these wages.”
“On a national basis, the $50 billion cannabis market is essentially the equivalent to the U.S. wine market ($55 billion)” – Beau Whitney, Oregon Economist
With nearly 5% of the United States still suffering from unemployment, this boost of local work opportunities makes the difference between food or no food on the table in some cases.
“At present, I feel there are roughly 300,000 – 400,000 cannabis-touching jobs in the USA,” Whitney said. “That number will grow to more than a million as more states come online as legal markets.” In comparison, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nationwide only 105,000 jobs were created in the education sector in the last year and only 219,000 construction jobs were created in the last year.
Portland, the biggest metro area in Oregon, ranked number 19 nationwide for the highest number of new residents in 2015, with 111 people moving to Portland every day. Metro planning director, Elissa Gertler, told OregonMetro.gov, “This continued growth demonstrates that our region is a desirable place to live and a competitive place to work.” Cannabis is surely on the top of the list of economic stimulators, alongside the competitive microbrew and wine industries.
In 2013, wine-related jobs in Oregon were estimated to total around 17,000 with wages near $527 million. In 2015, the craft beer industry in Oregon was estimated to create more than 31,000 jobs for a total of $4.49 billion in economic impact. But we have to remember, these numbers for beer and wine include jobs created from direct and indirect jobs, while the cannabis stats only count direct jobs. The cannabis industry is rapidly gaining ground.
Not only is Portland booming, but the newly established recreational industry is boosting economies of rural counties where growers are pouring money into land, equipment, natural resources, and other Oregon-based businesses.
Whitney has promised a more comprehensive and in-depth economic survey soon which will analyze both the direct and indirect impact. Even with the preliminary numbers, it is breathing a great amount of hope into exhausted economic landscapes across Oregon. If it can build up one state’s job creation by 12,500 in just one year, imagine what this industry could do to revitalize local economies nationwide.