WA cannabis industry boomed during COVID-19 pandemic: report

A new report details how the cannabis industry boomed across the US during the COVID pandemic. Washington was in the top ten for most jobs in the industry.

A new report details how the cannabis industry boomed across the US during the COVID pandemic. Washington was in the top ten for most jobs in the industry.

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Life during the COVID-19 pandemic has been all about masks, social distancing, Zoom meetings — and apparently smoking pot.

A new report shows that national sales boomed during the COVID pandemic in 2020, including in Washington, leading to growth in revenue and jobs.

While some states that recently legalized recreational or medicinal use of marijuana added more jobs than Washington in 2020, its industry has continued to grow steadily since 2012, the report says.

Washington’s cannabis sales increased by 17% in 2020, with customers spending $1.42 billion on marijuana products, leading to a boom in employment, the report says. The state has 19,873 cannabis industry jobs, which is 524 more than 2019.

As one of the pioneering states in the sale of recreational marijuana, Washington has the fifth-most cannabis jobs and some of the highest sales number in the U.S., according to the report.

Gov. Jay Inslee declared marijuana dispensaries essential businesses under the state’s stay-home order at the beginning of the pandemic, KREM reported. Since then, dispensaries have noticed an uptick in business.

“It’s definitely been busier,” Harry Thurman, a shift supervisor at World of Weed in Tacoma, told McClatchy News during a phone interview. “As far as foot traffic and our new online ordering system and just new faces I’ve seen throughout the last year or so, I would definitely say business has picked up.”

On an average day, about 200 to 300 customers come through the dispensary, Thurman said. A busy day could see around 600 to 700 people, according to Thurman.

New customers during the pandemic have made up a good portion of the shop’s increased business, Thurman said.

The state’s taxes and fees increased from 2019 to 2020 as well, both for liquor and marijuana.

Liquor taxes and fees in Washington went from $222.9 million in 2019 to $244.5 million in 2020. Cannabis took a much bigger jump, from $395.5 million to $473.9 million, according to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board’s Annual Report for the 2020 fiscal year.

Sales soar nationally

Nationally, cannabis sales saw a 71% surge between 2019 and 2020, the Leafly report shows. Americans bought $18.3 billion worth of pot products in 2020, according to the report.

“Despite a year marked by a global pandemic, spiking unemployment, and economic recession, the legal cannabis industry added 77,300 full-time jobs in the United States,” Leafly’s 2021 jobs report says. “That represents 32% year-over-year job growth, an astonishing figure in the worst year for US economic growth since World War II.”

Legalization of marijuana in some form or another is rapidly catching on in most U.S. states.

Thirty-six states allow medicinal use of marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Mississippi and South Dakota voters approved a medical-cannabis program during the November 2020 election.

Fifteen states have legalized recreational cannabis use, including California and Oregon, since Washington and Colorado did so in 2012, the Business Insider reported. People in South Dakota, Montana, New Jersey and Arizona voted to legalize recreational cannabis use in November.

Brooke is native of the Pacific Northwest and most recently worked for KREM 2 News in Spokane, Washington, as a digital and TV producer. She also worked as a general assignment reporter for the Coeur d’Alene Press in Idaho. She is an alumni of Washington State University, where she received a degree in journalism and media production from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.

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