For Six-Figure Job Seekers in Cannabis, a New Study Pinpoints the States with the Greatest Jobs Growth. They’re Not the States You’d Expect

Anyone seeking what cannabis/hemp placement exec David Belsky calls “six-figure jobs” should ignore that old adage to “Go West, young man [or woman].” Reason: The biggest cannabis boomtowns are now in the East
Written by 
Joan Oleck, Cannabis Journalist.
|Last Updated:

According to a new study by Flowerhire, the cannabis talent and placement company Belsky leads, the biggest cannabis boomtowns are now in the East (and to some extent, the Midwest).

The company examined its own database and zeroed in on jobs paying over $100,000 (average salary, $140,000 in both 2020 and 2021 to date. Surprisingly, 68 percent of those placements were located east of the Mississippi, compared to 50 in percent in 2020.

That’s an eye opener for an industry used to paying homage to Western “pioneer” cannabis states like California and Colorado. In fact, FlowerHire’s study reported, 80 percent of new six-figure job growth has occurred outside California.

“In the past, California has been the leader in job demand for FlowerHire,” a synopsis of the study said. “However, recent legalizations in the Midwest and East Coast have led to rapid demand as markets quickly scale up.”

Specifically, Massachusetts showed strong job demand, as did Michigan, in the Midwest. Then there were the medical-only markets. In that category, Florida and Pennsylvania showed that job growth isn’t just for adult use markets, the study revealed: Both experienced significant growth in demand, with Florida increasing from zero to 7.5 percent, and Pennsylvania, 1.1 percent to 8.5 percent, respectively.

Although recreational cannabis is not yet legal in those two Eastern states, they benefit in terms of job opportunities from the longer list of conditions they allow for patients to be eligible for a medical marijuana card. Florida and Pennsylvania also have fewer limitations than other medical-only states — like, say Texas – on THC potency and smoke-able flower.

“Looking into the medical and recreation programs across the country, there has yet to be a market that’s slow since its launch, including throughout the Covid-19 pandemic,” Belsky said in an email interview. “The industry is only expanding, and the ‘essential business’ designation the industry has been given has cemented confidence in the industry.” Here, the CEO referred to state-issued designations of companies allowed to operate during Covid’s height.

The company Belsky founded is headquartered in Manhattan Beach, California, and has 25 employees split between Southern California and key East Coast and Midwest markets. In his email Belsky explained that he himself came from an executive search firm concentrating on the tech industry. When friends moved into the then-fledgling cannabis industry, Belsky followed their example and in 2017 started FlowerHire,“to build something special supporting an industry that could serve to make the world a better place.”

FlowerHire specializes in executive and management roles, Belsky shared, but overall has recently had about 450 jobs on its site, ranging from hourly workers and salaried individual contributors to management and the c-suite.

The positions singled out in the study, meanwhile, were those paying $100,000 or more, the CEO wrote. The majority were executive, leadership and management roles. Belsky said that in his experience, a vertically integrated cannabis company has more diversity in job titles “than any industry in the world.”

The six-figure roles for all those job placements include retail, marketing sales, cultivation, manufacturing, operations, finance, accounting, legal HR and quality corporate development. Professional work experience in these roles – even in other industries – is the résumé element most valued at FlowerHire, Belsky noted, as opposed to degrees and certifications.

Certainly, the job outlook for those and other cannabis jobs nationwide is glowing: The 2021 MJBiz Factbook predicted that the marijuana industry will employ 340,000 to 415,000 full-time equivalent workers across the United States in 2021and grow that number to 545,000-600,000 by 2025.

That’s the scenario underlying other specifics of the FlowerHire study:

  • Of that 80 percent of new job growth occurring outside California, the geographic breakdown is East, 41.3 percent; Midwest and West, both 26.7; and for multi-state operators, 5.3 percent.
  • “Cannabis job growth in Florida came out of nowhere,” the study said. In 2020 the company had no placed jobs there; but in 2021, suddenly 7.5 percent of its placements were in the Sunshine State, owing to company expansions.
  • In 2020, only 1.1 percent of FlowerHire’s top placements were in Pennsylvania, but in 2021 that number shot up to 8.5 percent, due to multiple mergers and acquisitions.
  • Job growth in Massachusetts and Michigan as remained consistent – with Massachusetts, in 2021, at 10 percent, and Michigan, 7.6 percent. Investments in cultivation were a big factor in the latter state.

In fact, cultivation is where it’s at, according to Belsky. “With so many new markets coming on, the biggest job creator in these initial phases on the legal market in most states will be cultivation, followed by retail,” he said. “Cultivation is the beeline of the entire industry; without enough product, there is no customer.”

Currently, most of the cultivation sites are indoor and in greenhouses, with a few large indoor farms, the CEO pointed out. That’s important, he explained, because these kinds of sites are being located in regions negatively impacted by the loss of local jobs due to globalization.

“In essence, cannabis is creating massive amounts of light industrial and retail jobs,” Belsky said. “[Those are] two areas of the labor force without a ton of growth prospects, in an industry with boundless upward potential.”


Joan Oleck
Joan Oleck
Cannabis Journalist
Joan Oleck is a freelance writer currently specializing in the cannabis industry and cannabis tech. She has been an editor and reporter on staff for such publications as, Business Week, Newsday and The Detroit News. She won the Jesse Neal Award for best feature series in a trade publication, Restaurant Business, and a GLAAD Award for a Salon story about discrimination in adoption against single and gay parents

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