Marijuana-related jobs are becoming harder to find in Colorado. You’ve likely seen headlines claiming that Colorado marijuana sales are dropping. Alongside this, the state’s cannabis workforce has also fallen by 28 percent according to a recent report.
This is a first for the Centennial State, which legalized adult-use cannabis sales back in 2014. While such trends are being seen across the country, reports show that Colorado has been hit the hardest.
Between February 2022 and February of this year, cannabis business owners cut nearly 10,500 jobs within the state—bringing the state down to a total of 27,856 workers. Compare that to the industry employment rates of other states:
California – 85,593
Florida – 29,011
Illinois – 29,925
Massachusetts – 28,370
Michigan – 35,405
It comes as no surprise that a state like California has surpassed Colorado simply due to its size. However, in comparison to a state like Florida (which only offers medicinal marijuana), this is a surprise
Colorado’s employment decline parallels that of its drop in wholesale cannabis prices: Currently, prices are down 61 percent in comparison to 2021.
“I’m not surprised,” Truman Bradley, executive director of Marijuana Industry Group, told Westword. “The industry has gone through a 20-month downturn with no end in sight. Sales are down over 20% on the recreational side and over 45% on the medical side this year.”
According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, the state recorded $129.4 million in its first month of sales. This is down 15% from the $151.1 million sold in January 2022. And more than 30% down from January 2021.
This loss in sales is affecting the industry as a whole. With accountants, software providers, and other business services all cutting staff. Not to mention, state and tax revenues are also declining.
“The economic impact of the Colorado cannabis industry is real, and unfortunately, we’re seeing that a contraction also has ripple effects,” Bradley noted.
Employment Cuts Being a Result of Legalization, Economic Inflation, and COVID-19
While times are tough for Colorado’s cannabis industry, some economic forecasts are optimistic. The Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting predicts marijuana tax revenue will grow 16% in 2024.
Still, these employment cuts are simply a reminder of the continuing struggles the country faces from the public health crisis of 2020.
“COVID changed a lot of things in cannabis and other industries,” Bradley said. “After a big shock like that, it’s hard to know what the world would’ve been like without that shock. We went through the best year we’ve ever had, immediately followed by a downturn. It’s not just that other states have legalized. We’re also dealing with high inflation that we haven’t seen since cannabis has been legal.”
With that in mind, it’s difficult to assume what direction Colorado should take its industry. Bradley believes there are “long-term concerns” with the current 15% excise tax on wholesale marijuana.
Colorado remains only one of three states that charges an excise tax on wholesale cannabis transfers. Such a decision was approved by voters when Coloradans initially legalized it in 2012.
“When Colorado voted for the various tax plans in place now, in some cases, we were the only legal marketplace to buy cannabis for almost one thousand miles,” Bradley said. “That’s not the case anymore, so decade number two needs to look different than decade number one if the Colorado cannabis industry is going to stick around.”
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