The “essential” designation of medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities, as well as the recent legalization of recreational cannabis, have opened the door for many unemployed or seeking a change in their careers. career in New Mexico and the country. The cannabis industry became an early refuge for retail and restaurant workers who had been laid off or laid off by the pandemic, and the exodus continues.
In many cases, a much better pay scale and better hours sealed the deal for the career change, and there is no going back to life until COVID-19. An estimated 321,000 Americans are now working in the cannabis industry, and that number is growing by leaps and bounds every day.
As more states legalize medical and recreational cannabis, the industry has continued to grow, creating nearly 80,000 jobs in 2020, a 32% increase from 2019, according to data from the Leafly report. Jobs, produced in partnership with Whitney Economics. The report found that the legal marijuana industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country, with more legal cannabis workers than dentists, paramedics or electrical engineers in the country.
As the pandemic has rocked and rewritten our social and professional lives, many Americans have re-evaluated their jobs and career options. In particular, retail workers are quitting at an all-time high, looking for consistent hours, better benefits and more opportunities for advancement. And surprise … They find them in the cannabis industry.
“There has been a dramatic shift from retail and restaurant workers to cannabis,” said Kara Bradford, managing director of cannabis recruiting firm Viridian Staffing, where she responded to up to 500 applications for an opening. “It feels like a booming industry that’s fun and interesting, with plenty of opportunities to grow quickly. “
The standard hourly wage in dispensaries ranges from $ 12 to $ 15, which works for most retail and warehouse jobs. However, there are often more perks, and due to the newness of the industry, entry-level workers can progress in less than a year to more skilled positions.
Traditional employers have started to relax drug testing requirements as increased cannabis recruitment has pushed them to hire employees, especially in states where recreational marijuana use is legal. In June, Amazon, which is set to open a massive distribution center in the Westside of Albuquerque, said it would stop screening employees for cannabis use and back federal marijuana legislation.
As job postings exceed the number of unemployed Americans by 10.9 million to 8.4 million, other employers, including city governments, retailers and restaurants, have also dropped similar requirements in an attempt to attract workers to the labor market.
Legal cannabis sales are expected to reach $ 41 billion by 2025, according to the Wall Street research firm Cowen. Industry could easily become a channel to middle class jobs, just like the manufacturing industry. Workers’ rights groups say it is essential to create well-paying jobs with the right protections and policies, and insist on broader unionization in the cannabis industry.
“It is so rare to have the opportunity to shape an industry from its inception,” said David Cooper, analyst for the Economic Policy Institute, a left-wing think tank. “There is an urgent need to establish safeguards now for well-paying middle-class jobs, before cannabis is federally legalized and really takes off. Otherwise, those jobs could quickly start to resemble existing jobs in retail and agriculture, which are often the worst jobs in the economy. “
Restaurant jobs abound in Albuquerque, but many New Mexicans seem to want something better to return as their unemployment runs out. It’s a labor market and employers are desperate to hire people, often offering higher wages and hiring bonuses. Jobs in the service sector, even attractive ones, often pay less than a living wage, offer little opportunity for career advancement, or have little personal meaning for workers.
Many workers can see that it is possible to work well and be productive in different working arrangements, and that there are options that could allow them to have more fulfilling lives. Department of Labor statistics on “quits” in New Mexico from March 2021 showed 19,000 people quit their jobs, and the State Department of Workforce Solutions reported 71,973 job postings online for June, the highest number since at least 2008.
There is a wide variety of jobs available in the rapidly growing cannabis industry in New Mexico.
At the Minerva Canna Group dispensary, jobs are offered between $ 15 and $ 22 an hour. Benefits include an employee discount, flexible hours, health insurance, paid time off, and an eight-hour shift with availability on weekends. COVID-19 Considerations:
Full-time and part-time Urban Wellness tendering and concierge positions are available and pay $ 13 to $ 15 per hour. Benefits include employee discounts, health benefits, paid sick leave, and paid time off.
The Bloom Brand dba Hi Extracts is offering Albuquerque $ 14 to $ 17 per hour for full-time assembly line / production workers. Benefits include dental insurance, health insurance, paid time off, vision insurance, and an eight-hour day shift Monday through Friday with standard COVID-19 considerations.
At the top of the salary scale, a master cannabis grower at Sandia Exotics LLC in Albuquerque pays $ 70,000 per year for a full-time contract employee with an eight-hour shift.
While some employers can afford to pay higher rates, this is not the case in all areas, especially for the “mom and pop” stores in town. Many small businesses are unable to do this, which means they ultimately struggle to recruit talented workers.
For thousands of workers in New Mexico, the pandemic opens new doors and opportunities. Many say adios to their old way of doing things, including their jobs. Many potential employees ask employers what they are worth working for. A job in cannabis is attractive and a breath of fresh air for many who are looking for new employment opportunities.
Leafly’s report is also a stark reminder that we have a lot of work to do to ensure that the cannabis industry becomes a beacon of hope for all entrepreneurs, regardless of skin color or gender.