Anybody who’s tried to look for employment in the job market recently has probably become intimately familiar with the pressures of not being able to find a job. This has been a pretty major theme of life in the US for the past decade or so. But now, experts are saying that legalized marijuana could become a major factor reversing the trend of job loss—at least in 420-friendly states.
Take Alaska for example. The Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development just released its “Employment Forecast for 2016,” and in it, experts predict a net loss of somewhere around 2,500 jobs across the state, effectively negating the 1,700 new jobs Alaska gained last year.
Commenting on the new report, Alaska Department of Labor economist Neal Fried said that the marijuana industry stood out as a potentially bright spot in an otherwise bleak forecast.
“I thought ‘wait a second, there’s the commercialization of marijuana that will affect some industries,’ actually, ” he told reporters.
Although medicinal and recreational marijuana have both been legalized in Alaska, this year will be the first that pot bust begins operations. And that includes not only dispensaries but the nation’s first cannabis cafe as well.
Experts like Fried see the upcoming activity in the marijuana sector as a potentially saving grace.
“The real wild card at this point is will the local governments allow these businesses to create jobs, pay taxes and operate as lawful businesses or are they going to shut them down as they get started,” said Bruce Shulte, President of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association.
While maintaining his optimism for the cannabis sector, Fried also echoed Shulte’s sense of uncertainty regarding how things will play out.
“The numbers are going to be there,” he said. “We just don’t know what part of the year, how fast are people going to get up and ready and right now we don’t know how many people are going to apply at this point because they can’t apply yet.”
Given all the question marks still surrounding Alaska’s cannabis industry, we’ll just have to wait and see how things unfold.
But the exciting thing is that if pot businesses are allowed to open up as planned, Alaska could be a significant testing ground to see just how big an impact legal weed might have on local economies—especially struggling ones.