Recreational Marijuana Would Create More Than 100,000 Jobs in Florida, Study Says

The cannabis industry's success will depend on the state's willingness to legalize recreational use.
The cannabis industry's success will depend on the state's willingness to legalize recreational use. Photo by Paxson Woelber, The Alaska Landmine / Flickr
The number of jobs related to hemp, cannabis, and marijuana could increase more than sevenfold in Florida by 2025 — that is, if recreational marijuana gains approval in the November 2020 election.

The prediction comes from a new study on the cannabis industry conducted by New Frontier Data.

"Assuming full federal legalization, New Frontier Data estimates cannabis jobs could reach 128,587 by 2025," says John Kagia, chief knowledge officer at the D.C.-based research group. That's up dramatically from the state's current number of cannabis jobs, which Kagia says is at 16,792.

Florida is also predicted to snag a 12 percent share of the nation's $29.7 billion legal market by 2025. As of last year, the survey says, Florida had an estimated 2.5 million cannabis consumers, defined as legal adults who reported using a cannabis product at least once in the past year.

New Frontier Data incorporated figures from government entities, retail sales from cannabis companies, and statistics from academic and medical institutions to make its predictions. The group also conducted a survey of 3,138 people in October 2018 to gauge their usage habits.

Kagia says the jobs coming out of the industry vary in skill levels and types of work.

"[T]he types of jobs have actually benefited a wide range of groups of workers: lower-skilled labor roles such as trimmers or budtenders, [plus] higher-skilled workers like extraction tech, chemists, and other manufacturers dealing with edibles," he says.

David Hasenauer, a cannabis policy expert based in Fort Lauderdale, says the industry's success will depend on the state's willingness to legalize recreational use. If it's approved, the sky's the limit.

"All in all, Florida cannabis consumer growth is positively correlated with the industry's growth and will only be tempered by the state's Legislature," says Hasenauer, with the caveat that he doesn't anticipate that happening anytime soon.

Florida's cannabis industry is already booming. As of August, the state had about 270,000 patients registered with a medical marijuana card, according to the study.

Dori Stibolt, a West Palm Beach attorney specializing in employment law, began following the cannabis industry after representing employees who had failed drug tests after using CBD products. She says Florida's unique population, including senior citizens and visitors from states where marijuana is legal, means a relatively large number of cannabis users are looking to buy related products.

"It's not even close to meeting its full potential, and a lot of that is because at the federal level it's still considered a Class 5 drug," she says.

Stibolt agrees recreational use probably won't pass in 2020. She expects fits and starts as voters warm up to the idea.

"It may just take another round for that to get passed," she predicts.

In the meantime, Stibolt and Kagia compare the growth of the cannabis industry to that of the dot-com boom, which saw a wide range of jobs quickly flood the market.

"I think it will be declassified, or the classification will change, and that will really open the floodgates," Stibolt says. "People are still really concerned about being in this business because of the federal restrictions."
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