Study pins Florida as one of the top-five states for cannabis employment growth


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Florida’s ever-evolving legal weed landscape is contributing to a major ascent in jobs. Based on a recent report published by Leafly, 15,498 Floridians were employed by cannabis companies in 2019; of this amount, 5,000 jobs were created last year alone. These figures suggest that the state is catching up with other green places in the United States, including California, Colorado, Washington and Oregon.

Since 2017, Leafly has been releasing its annual report on cannabis job growth; the company’s most recent report did not focus on jobs in the CBD and hemp industries. Cannabis is still illegal at the federal level and so, jobs in the industry do not have a specific code for tracking on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In order to conduct its cannabis job growth study, Leafly gleaned numbers from state regulatory data. Additionally, numbers were sourced from data analytics companies like BDS Analytics, Headset, MGP Consulting, New Frontier Data, Vangst and Whitney Economics.

Florida’s medical cannabis industry inflated 93 percent in 2019

Leafly’s report on cannabis job growth revealed that the legal medical cannabis industry in Florida soared 93 percent in size last year; boasting a valuation close to $800 million. Some 300,000 patients have enrolled in Florida’s medical cannabis program, which went into effect in 2014 with the passing of the signing of the “Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act”.

These figures mean that the state is trailing closely behind some of the most established and successful medical cannabis markets, including Oregon and Washington. Legal cannabis advocate and founder of the Medical Marijuana Business Association, Jeffrey Sharkey, says that companies have a “tiger by the tail” as the industry continues to grow.

“They have had to develop really thorough business models to anticipate their expansion, their growth and their inventory management,” he said, attributing the state’s vertically-integrated business model to the rise in cannabis employment opportunities.

“Everybody is rushing to be a market maker in different communities. They have in-house architects, in-house design; then you have operations. Each one of these facilities has 15 people or so, Sharkey explained. This rapid expansion of larger players is driving this. Theyre all pouring money into making a statewide footprint,” added Sharkey.

What is causing Florida’s cannabis job growth?

Experts in the cannabis industry believe that the rise in cannabis employment opportunities throughout Florida is a direct effect of smokable flower becoming legal. In March 2019, a ban on smokable medicinal cannabis came to an end. Since this time, over 21,000 ounces has been sold in Florida’s dispensaries.

Whole flower products have been flying off the shelves in various dispensaries; 60 percent of patients choose smokeable flower at Liberty Health Sciences dispensaries; whole flower is one of Curaleafs best-selling products; 50 percent of sales come from whole flower at Trulieve.

“There’s no doubt smokable flower in Florida is a game changer,” said the vice president of government affairs for California-headquartered MedMen, Nick Hansen. “We cant keep flower on the shelves. We werent scaling for it because we didnt think we were going to be able to sell flower. We cant fly plants in and we have to grow them in large quantities. It sells out, and it sells quickly.”

More people are being employed to tackle the rise in demand for smokable cannabis flower in Florida. Thats not all, however. Numerous ancillary jobs are cropping up in the industry, including real estate opportunities, farming, packaging and construction, to name a few.

Experts believe that edibles will become the next catalyst for Florida’s cannabis job growth. The Florida Administrative Register announced in December that “production of edible products by medical [cannabis] treatment centers” is being contemplated.