Marijuana: A Job-Creation Engine?


 

Whenever a new industry arises the potential benefits in can have on the surrounding economy are seemingly endless; from becoming an additional source of tax revenue, to the creation of the jobs necessary to support and manage the growth of the emerging industry.

So far tax revenue has been a major selling point to state and local governments in regards to the legalization of marijuana. In 2016, Colorado pulled in nearly $200 million of tax revenue from the sale of marijuana and its related products. The legal marijuana industry was worth ~$7.2 billion in 2016 alone, and has been projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 17 percent. These projections are based solely on the states that have already passed legal initiatives, and do not include states which could potentially legalize the drug come 2020; meaning that number could be way low.

This extra source of revenue has the potential to provide state and local lawmakers the much needed funds many so often claim to lack in order to fund effective social programs favored by a community. Colorado has allocated a large portion of the tax revenue received from the sale of marijuana towards a variety of programs meant to combat issues within their communities. This includes tax dollars being put toward providing housing assistance for the homeless and those who might be at risk of losing their home, an additional 150 health professionals for numerous high schools across the state, and the Department of Human Services being given the money necessary to better deal with individuals who are experiencing mental health issues; ending the use of jails for holding these people who deserve care rather than neglect.

What has been overlooked by many lawmakers throughout the country seems to be the inevitable creation of jobs necessary to support this booming industry. According to data from the Marijuana Policy Group, the legalization of marijuana created more than 18,000 full-time jobs in 2015 within Colorado alone.

Throughout the country cannabis-related companies are now employing an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 workers. This includes employment at retailers, testing labs, wholesale growers, infused product companies, and ancillary firms; putting the current workforce in the cannabis industry on par with the number of people employed as flight attendants in the United States.

Since the industry is still largely in its infancy, the potential for further job growth is tremendously high. A report from New Frontier Data has projected that by 2020 the legal cannabis market will create more than 250,000 jobs; a greater number of created jobs than what’s expected from the manufacturing industry. When you look at these numbers some can’t help but be frustrated with the members of the Trump administration who continue to justify their opposition towards the legalization based off their own personal or moral belief, rather than a logical and fair comparison between the pros and cons of allowing this industry into the communities that have voted for it.

Right now there are 29 states with some sort of legalized medical marijuana laws, and 8 states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Numerous states across the country are also currently working on passing legislation to loosen the legal grip on marijuana in their state. It will not be long now until more and more state governments will be forced to give into the will of their constituents whom, as a majority, support the legalization effort.

Polling data has shown American support for marijuana’s legalization is at an all time high with over 60 percent of voters saying they believe marijuana should be made legal in the United States, and over 94 percent believing that adults should be able to legally consume it for medical purposes. Support for its legalization is weakest amongst those over the age of 65, at 42 percent, and Republicans, at 37 percent.

It has now been more than eight decades since the Unites States ratified the 21st amendment in 1933, ending prohibition. Alcohol has for to long now been the go to drug for many due to its legality and easy access. In 2014 the alcohol industry generated more than ~$475 billion dollars in economic activity and ~$110 billion in wages. Approximately 4.5 million people are working in alcohol-related jobs; contributing to alcohol’s production, distribution, sales, and service. The marijuana industry is a long way from producing similar numbers coming from the alcohol industry, but should the public embrace its legalization and challenge state and local laws, as they did when alcohol became illegal, then the public can become the catalyst to making the marijuana industry a glowing success.

When the 21st amendment was passed, alcohol did not become legal nationwide overnight. It took Mississippi until 1966 to end prohibition in their state. States and local governments had the ability to restrict the industry as they saw fit, emulating the will of their constituents. Some communities preferred to restrict the sale of alcohol outright, whereas others allowed what has become unlimited access to the drug, granted one has the money to purchase the product. This reaction and action is inevitable as there will always be supporters of the extreme on both sides of the issue, and is perfectly acceptable should the majority of the community support the laws and legislation put forth by their congressional representatives.

Today, the need for job creation has become focal point for many representatives. When looking at the numbers and analysis of potential impact put out by research firms across the country, the legalization effort warrants proper consideration to whether it can contribute to providing an environment of growth. Vices born from laws are inevitable, especially when the laws are created to appease the majority seeking the change; however it is the legislators duty to address and correct these, often times, unforeseen issues arisen whenever change occurs.

When it comes to marijuana legalization, the potential issues are outweighed by the benefits already seen in the states that have allowed the marijuana industry the opportunity to flourish.

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