It was only a few years ago that marijuana was totally illegal all over the United States. Over the past several years however, marijuana has been approved for medical use in 18 states and in Washington D.C., and Colorado and Washington D.C. have even decriminalized its recreational use. Nowadays, there are thousands of legal marijuana dispensaries all over the country. In an interesting development, this has opened up several work opportunities, some of them in areas that have not been previously considered
One example is Steve Cottrell, who had been interested in the medicinal benefits of marijuana since his son died of cancer in the 1990s. A former laboratory technician, Cottrell combined his interest in marijuana with his knowledge of laboratory procedures and established a company called AZ Med Testing. Along with his partner Brenda Perkins, Cottrell is now routinely works with Arizona dispensaries that provide marijuana samples that he tests for the presence of pesticides and mold.
Cottrell’s case is only one of the estimated 1,500 jobs that have cropped up in Arizona in the wake of growing marijuana legalization. In a development mirrored elsewhere in 18 states and in Washington D.C., the legalization of marijuana dispensaries has resulted in the creation of new jobs and new business opportunities in the rapidly growing marijuana market.
As promising as this development is, it is difficult to determine just how big the job market in legal marijuana can grow and how it will impact on the economy of the “legal” states. That being said, much of the growth will be dependent on the size of the marijuana market once the state has settled into its legal status. The 1,500 jobs that will be created as a direct offshoot of the medical marijuana industry is only part of the estimated 5,000 other jobs in various related sectors
The revenues generated by this new workforce will only add to the billions of dollars that legalization will supposedly earn the government, not to mention the considerable amount saved from law enforcement, court, and incarceration costs. Along with the medicinal benefits of marijuana, these economic aspects form a significant part of the thrust toward marijuana legalization, and are in fact the basis for most pro-legalization actions. Colorado is one example of the financial potential of medical marijuana, with the state having generated $200 million in sales revenue in 2012, along with $5.5 million paid in sales taxes.
Not everyone paints a similarly positive picture however. Some of the more vocal opponents of marijuana legalization claim that the resulting increase in crime and the costs that it would entail far outweigh the financial benefits of legalization. There are also issues with regard to tax policies levied against operators of marijuana dispensaries, who pay taxes that are anywhere from 50% to 75% higher than taxes paid by operators of other businesses. Since marijuana remains illegal on a federal level, marijuana dispensaries aren’t given the same deduction privileges as other legitimate businesses, due to Section 20E of the U.S. tax code.