US cannabis market soared in 2021, but was dragged down by New York

The US cannabis industry added more than 100,000 jobs last year, and the economic lift will only continue if states like New York get recreational programs off the ground, experts say.

Americans spent nearly $25 billion on cannabis products in 2021, as the budding industry expanded by about 33 percent, adding more than 107,000 new jobs, according to a Wednesday jobs report from cannabis new site Leafly, and Whitney Economics.

Some 428,000 Americans now work directly in the cultivation and retail sectors of the industry or have ancillary jobs with licensed distributors in fields like accounting, construction and regulatory compliance. Revenue and jobs could soon quadruple if cannabis is legalized federally and more adult-use programs get off the ground from coast to coast.

Americans over 21 can now walk into stores and buy joints, flower and edibles in 11 states and Washington, DC. Medical marijuana is legal in 38 states, where illegal dealers still reign supreme, according to Bruce Barcott, senior editor at Leafly and co-author of the study.

Marijuana plants
Trimmers sort and trim marijuana plants at the LivWell Enlightened Health cultivation facility in Denver.
Flowering marijuana
Marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, listed by the government as a Schedule 1.

The prevalence of the illegal cannabis trade was especially acute in New York, where cannabis is legal but its regulated sale was still a pipe dream for many, Barcott said

“You’ve got a huge population and if you’re gonna grow jobs and move people from the illicit market over to the regulated market, those customers have to be able to actually buy licensed and regulated products at a store near them,” he explained.

Barcott said the disparate nature of New York’s medical program — where 40 dispensaries serve nearly 20 million people — was “dysfunctional,” and the worst in the country. Only 2,300 New Yorkers had full-time cannabis jobs, the study found.

“We should be talking about 25,000 to 30,000 cannabis jobs. We should be talking about 1.5 billion — with a ‘B’ — dollars in cannabis sales,” he said.

“I think the current governor realizes what an economic benefit this industry will bring to New York,” he added, referencing Gov. Kathy Hochul’s stated commitment to sparking the program by 2023.

California and Colorado remained the national leaders of the industry while Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan and Arizona added jobs at double-digit rates, researchers said.

Cannabis store
Americans spent nearly $25 billion on cannabis products in 2021.
Marijuana plants
Americans over 21 can now walk into stores and buy joints, flower and edibles in 11 states and DC.

Marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, listed by the government as a Schedule 1 substance alongside far more dangerous substances such as heroin, MDMA and LSD, and above potentially deadly Schedule 2 narcotics like fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine.

Republican-backed bill in Congress would legalize the plant on the federal level for adults over 21 and allow individual states to determine if they should prohibit it.

Per: NYP

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