top of page

Cannabis Legalization Increases Workforce Opportunities

A new study highlights the positive impact of marijuana legalization in creating opportunities in the American workforce.

A recent study conducted by researchers at San Diego State University and Bentley University and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that, contrary to many prohibitionist arguments, marijuana reform legislation has a positive net impact on the workforce in the United States.


The report analyzed employment and wage trends in selected states that have or have not passed recreational marijuana legislation (RML) over the years, including Alaska, California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Colorado and Washington.


According to the researchers, their study is the “first to explore the impact of recreational marijuana legalization (RML) on labor market outcomes of working-age individuals.” The prevailing sentiment of those opposed to RML reform is that legal adult-use cannabis could potentially have a detrimental impact on the health and safety of individuals in the workplace, disrupting labor opportunities.


On the contrary, the study says, “Our findings show some evidence that RML adoption is associated with small increases in adult employment in the agricultural sector, consistent with (the) opening of a new licit market to produce and cultivate marijuana. Among early-adopting states, California, Colorado, and (to a lesser extent) Oregon saw boosts in agriculture work.”


"Our findings show some evidence that RML adoption is associated with small increases in adult employment in the agricultural sector, consistent with (the) opening of a new licit market to produce and cultivate marijuana. Among early-adopting states, California, Colorado, and (to a lesser extent) Oregon saw boosts in agriculture work.”

- National Bureau of Economic Research


Researchers found that the introduction of RML is also strongly associated with modest employment gains for Latinos and individuals over 30. In addition to examining the overall impact of RML on workforce trends, the study attempted to understand why the legalization of adult-use cannabis might be more economically beneficial compared to medical marijuana laws as well.


With RML providing access to a broader cross-section of society, there is compelling evidence for a correlated increase in demand for labor and new economic opportunities. The larger potential market would generate increased plant production and cultivation and thus expand workplace opportunities in both the agricultural and retail sectors.


Furthermore, as most forms of RML tend to contain a component of criminal justice reform, including expungements, the researchers found enacting reform “may be more likely to have important effects on employment and earnings opportunities of those young men with a relatively higher propensity for a marijuana possession arrest (in their past).” Finally, the researchers pointed out that those positive effects would particularly help young African American and Latino males disproportionately harmed by prohibition.


The study also highlighted the possible improvement in workplace productivity with the introduction of legal recreational marijuana. If, for example, individuals could substitute cannabis in place of opioids and heavy drinking, the net effect could be potentially positive for workers and employers.


As the study explains, “If legal access to marijuana induces substitution away from substances that have negative impacts on productivity, including opioids or heavier drinking, labor market outcomes may improve (or at least be no worse off). In addition, if marijuana is effective at alleviating physical health ailments, relieving stress, or improving psychological health, such health improvements could generate positive labor market spillovers.”


"If legal access to marijuana induces substitution away from substances that have negative impacts on productivity, including opioids or heavier drinking, labor market outcomes may improve (or at least be no worse off). In addition, if marijuana is effective at alleviating physical health ailments, relieving stress, or improving psychological health, such health improvements could generate positive labor market spillovers.”

- National Bureau of Economic Research


The results from this most recent examination align with past analyses, including a study from 2021 where researchers found an increase in workforce productivity and a decrease in workplace injuries associated with legal adult-use marijuana.


As more empirical evidence and research add substantial scientific weight to the positive economic and societal impacts of RML, the pervasive propaganda preventing the expansion of legal recreational marijuana across the country will continue to lose its power and sway over lawmakers and voting populations. There is still much work to do and knowledge to be gained on how to safely and thoughtfully bring prohibition to an end. Nevertheless, studies like this are an extremely positive step in the right direction.


60 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page