After Legalizing Cannabis, Unemployment In Colorado Lower Than Rest of Country

By Carey Wedler

Three years after legalizing cannabis, Colorado has the lowest unemployment rate in the country. “While the national unemployment rate dropped to 4.3 percent in May, the lowest since 2001, Colorado’s jobless rate is the nation’s lowest at 2.3 percent,” CNBC reported Monday.

According to Governor John Hickenlooper, multiple factors have contributed to Colorado’s job growth, including the state’s business-friendly policies. He touts the state’s very low business tax rate, noting Colorado has “one of the lowest business income tax levels at just a little over 4.6 percent.”

This approach has helped create over 60,000 jobs in the clean energy sector, a fact that should please both business and environmental advocates. One of the main factors in Colorado’s successful economy, however, is undeniably the cannabis industry.

Last year, cannabis generated $1.3 billion in profit, which yielded nearly $200 million in tax revenue that the state is using for various programs, including education, substance abuse and cannabis awareness programs for youth, and even the Attorney General’s office.

Further, with over a billion dollars in business, jobs undoubtedly follow.

In 2015, alone, the state’s cannabis industry created 18,000 new full-time jobs. As the Washington Post reported:

These indirect impacts of marijuana legalization came from increased demand on local goods and services: growers rent warehouse space and purchase sophisticating lighting and irrigation equipment, for instance. Marijuana retailers similarly rely on other companies, like contractors, lawyers and book-keeping services, to conduct their own businesses.

That growth has continued. In July of last year, CBS reported that according to the Marijuana Business Daily, “Colorado now has 27,000 occupational licensees, up from about 16,000 at the end of 2014, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.”

Though clean energy jobs currently outnumber on-the-record cannabis jobs by roughly 35,000, the speed of job creation appears far quicker with weed. According to the Denver Business Journal, for example, the clean energy sector created 1,583 new jobs in 2014. By comparison, the Marijuana Business Daily reported in May of 2014 that less than six months after legalization, the cannabis industry had already generated between 1,000 and 2,000 new jobs — roughly the same number of jobs as clean energy created in the course of the whole year.

Further, according to a 2016 Clean Jobs Colorado report by the organization Environmental Entrepreneurs, Colorado already had 62,000 clean energy jobs in 2015 — roughly where it rests now — making that industry’s growth apparently slower than the 18,000 new cannabis-related jobs the Post reported for the same year (it’s important to note, however, that some of these jobs already existed but were part of the black market and were counted as “new” when the industry was legalized).

This is promising news not just for Colorado, but the broader market. “Cannabis-related companies now employ an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 full and part-time workers, according to a new report by Marijuana Business Daily,” CBS noted last year.

As Business Insider pointed out in March, “California, home to the world’s sixth largest economy, fully legalized marijuana last November. Its state capital region alone could see 20,000 jobs created if it becomes a hub for the industry.”



According to a report from the New Data Frontier, which focuses on cannabis industry data, there could be as many as 283,000 jobs in cannabis by 2020. Business Insider points out that this figure will outpace the manufacturing industry, which is expected to lose 814,000 jobs by 2024.

In Colorado, where Governor Hickenlooper initially opposed legalization but changed his mind when he saw the positive results, there are yet to be serious negative consequences. Though Hickenlooper told CNBC it’s still “too soon to know” what the downsides may be, he remained optimistic. “We don’t see more people doing more marijuana in Colorado after legalization. It’s through a regulated process now,” he said.

But we haven’t seen a big spike in teenage consumption, we haven’t seen a big spike in any consumption.

It appears the only spike so far has been in jobs, coupled with other forward-thinking developments like the growth of the clean energy sector and the freedom for businesses to thrive.


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18 Comments on "After Legalizing Cannabis, Unemployment In Colorado Lower Than Rest of Country"

  1. Instead of spending some of the profits on “cannabis awareness programs”, they should spend it eliminating prescription opioid abuse, including cracking down on the drug companies for their marketing tactics and physicians for their over-prescribing, etc. Nobody dies from smoking weed, but people are dropping like flies from painkiller abuse.

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  2. But the cost of housing has spiraled out of control. Unemployment may be lowest in the nation but those aren’t good paying jobs where people can afford the average mortgage or rent.

    • Important point. For 2106, the metro area had 7 out of the 12 top counties in the US showing affordable housing at their lowest levels. In Boulder, the main campus of my alma mater CU, the price of the standard median home soared past $1 million. Crazy.

  3. Louis Charles | June 6, 2017 at 10:53 am | Reply

    Is this economy growing because tourists are going there to smoke?

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  4. Hubert Cumberdale | June 6, 2017 at 8:24 pm | Reply

    Correlation does not equal causation. Portugal legalized pot and it’s hardly jobsville over there!

  5. There are signs of some fallout in the terms of how legalization affected use by teenagers and young adults. Emergency room visits related to marijuana use for this group jumped dramatically and psychiatric evaluations for severe cases such as those with suicidal thoughts rose from 65 to 442. Maybe some parents are not exercising careful oversight of their kids using marijuana to cope with anxiety rather than working on the core issues.

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