Pot Legalization Could Bring A Million Jobs to California

As if justice, elemental fairness, and tax revenues weren't enough reasons to legalize marijuana...

An estimated 100,000 people are currently employed in California's marijuana industry, but that number could grow 10-fold within a few years, according to the California Cannabis Industry Association.

There is one big "if," though. That's if California actually gets around to legalizing it next year.

It does seem extremely likely: A well-financed legalization campaign will almost certainly make the ballot next year, and the latest polls have a majority for legalization. And it will be a presidential election year, spurring the turnout of young people, who tend to be even more supportive of freeing the weed.

If California legalizes it, the industry will be primed for rapid expansion and could generate a million jobs within eight years, said the group's executive director Nate Bradley.

That would make pot the7th largest economic sector in the state, behind health care (2.1 million jobs), the retail trade (1.6 million jobs), hotels and restaurants (1.4 million), education (1.3 million), manufacturing (1.25 million), and professional, scientific, and technical services (1.15 million). There would be more workers in marijuana than in administrative and support services (982,000), government (802,000), the wholesale trade (695,000), construction trades (643,000), transportation and warehousing (538,000), finance and insurance (524,000), and information technology (457,000), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"There's testing labs, packaging companies, wholesalers, processing companies, extraction companies, edible companies," Bradley told News 10 in Sacramento. "And that's on top of the cultivators and dispensary workers that most likely come to mind when you hear 'pot jobs.'"

And don't forget related and subsidiary jobs: Pot delivery drivers. Bud, bed, and breakfast operators. Grow shop operators and employees. Growing equipment manufacturers. And, one hopes, pot social club owners. This list is far from exhaustive.

Even limited to medical marijuana, the maturing industry is already seeing more innovation that anyone could have imagined even a few years ago. Not only are there delivery services, there are niche companies facilitating delivery services.

Nestdrop is one. The Los Angeles-based start-up has a smartphone app that puts dispensaries and customers together, and it already has 30,000 users since it launched in April.

"A lot of people who are patients are not necessarily part of the cannabis culture," Nestdrop CEO Michael Pycher told News 10. "They don't necessarily want to go into a dispensary. They don't necessarily want to make a special trip. They want to have it merge in seamlessly with their life, discreetly and privately. That's what this allows them."

Pycher is currently trying to raise $2 million from investors to expand the company's operations and five-person team.

"We're growing very quickly, gaining a lot of new customers and getting into a lot of new territories. To be honest we're just trying to keep up with everything else that's been going on," Pycher said.

It's not just niche jobs that are opening up. The demand for dispensary help continues to be hot. Sacramento dispensary owner Alex Terra told News 10 that his 515 Broadway Collective has tripled its staff in the past nine months.

"It's already booming as is. Just medical right now, so I can only imagine how much bigger it would get if it were recreational, too," Terra said.

Curious about your prospects in this looming booming industry? Check out the Cannabis Career fair on July 18 in San Francisco, sponsored by Bloom Farms and the California Cannabis Industry Association. Or sign up for classes on anything from dispensary operations and budtending to horticulture and marijuana science at Oakland-based Oaksterdam University. If you can't wait for the great boom after legalization, THCJobs.com and CannaJobs.com have current cannabis job listings. 


Phillip Smith is editor of the AlterNet Drug Reporter and author of the Drug War Chronicle.

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