Today is the unofficial marijuana holiday and we’re taking a look at the way marijuana production and sales are impacting B.C.’s economy.
While recreational use remains illegal in Canada, medicinal use was legalized in July 2001. Here in Vancouver, an estimated 60 marijuana dispensaries are currently in operation. According to Health Canada, approximately 26,000 Canadians currently use medical marijuana – that number has increased from less than 500 users in 2002. There are currently 25 companies officially licensed to grow medical marijuana; here in B.C., thousands of people still hold licenses to grow small amounts of marijuana for their own use, thanks to a Supreme Court injunction that was upheld in December 2014.
So how do these producers and dispensaries contribute to B.C.’s job market? The number of actual jobs created by the industry are difficult to come by, but the opening of a fully authorized licensed marijuana producer in Nanaimo, B.C. last year is being hailed by the city as an economic booster.
- Is one of the top employers in Nanaimo, with 140 workers, including researchers, patient advocates, manufacturers, horticulturalists and security personnel;
- Pays its employess an average of $30,000 per year, more than $2,000 above the city’s median income according to the 2010 census; and
- Has generated $48.1 million in total economic output in a single year.
“We started out making about $17,000 per week. Now it’s $22,000 and that’s nothing compared to some of the larger dispensaries.”
Weeds Glass & Gifts is one of those. Affiliate Ashley McLeod says the chain now has 15 stores and 35 employees across Metro Vancouver and is the largest of the Vancouver dispensaries. At one of the company’s two booths at Vancouver’s 4/20 celebration,
McLeod says she’s unsure of weekly sales but 4/20 itself is lucrative. “I can do $80,000 in sales in a day,” she claims.
South of the Border
A better picture of marijuana’s possible contribution to the economy and the job market comes from Colorado. The state legalized marijuana in January, 2015 and has released a report on the impacts of the new industry. The numbers are overwhelmingly positive. According to the Marijuana Policy Project:
Approximately 16,000 people have been licensed to work in the industry;
- The state collected more than $76 million in taxes and fees in 2014;
- $3.5 million in taxes were collected in January 2014 alone
A study conducted by Jack Strauss of the University of Denver found that employees at two local dispensaries earned an average of $17 per hour. Strauss also found that the two dispensaries generated 10 times the tax revenue of a restaurant or retail store. They were responsible for 280 jobs and $30 million in total economic output between January 1 and June 30, 2014. The state has also reported a decrease in violent crime and traffic fatalities since the legalization of marijuana.
With numbers like those, some might ask: what is Canada waiting for?