The legal cannabis industry is losing jobs for the first time

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Oversaturated markets and dwindling financing are putting a damper on the job market in the cannabis industry.

As of early 2023, there were 417,493 jobs supported by the legal cannabis industry, down 2% from last year, according to Vangst’s 2023 Jobs Report. It’s the first time in the history of legal cannabis that the industry has lost jobs.

“With higher interest rates, people are less interested in making risky investments when you can make safe investments and get a record 6% return,” said Karson Humiston, CEO of Denver-based cannabis industry jobs platform Vangst. “Cannabis is a risky bet in the long term. People are not interested in putting their money into something that they might not see a return on for a decade.”


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The drop in jobs comes even as cannabis sales are up. Cannabis sales increased by $850 million last year — up 3% from $25.25 billion in 2024 to $26.1 billion in 2024 — but companies are still feeling the pinch of inflation and have had to cut jobs.

“Sales volume was up year-over-year, but revenue was down because they were selling the product at a lower price,” Humiston said.

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Although the industry lost jobs nationally, emerging markets such as Michigan, New Jersey, Illinois, Missouri, Montana, and New Mexico saw double-digit revenue growth and job creation.

Missouri, for example, began selling adult-use cannabis in February. The state added 6,958 cannabis-related jobs last year, up 350% from the previous year, bringing the total number of jobs as of February to 9,733.

But more mature markets such as Colorado, Oregon and California all suffered significant job losses as they watched sales decline. In Colorado, sales fell from $2.2 billion in 2024 to $1.8 billion last year. In doing so, the centennial state lost 10,481 jobs — down 28%. The Colorado cannabis industry employs 27,856 people.

But Humiston doesn’t think the decline is a sign of things to come. It expects employment to pick up this year as wholesale cannabis prices find a strong footing and well-established businesses grow at a steady single-digit rate.

“2024 was the year of the industry reset,” Humiston said. “The industry will continue to grow. It will be one of the largest consumer brand products in the US and that will mean jobs. I’m still optimistic about the long term, but this has been a bumpy road.”

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