New Mexico Cannabis Industry Provides Higher Earnings for Workers Compared to Previous Non-Cannabis Jobs, State Reports

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According to a recent article in the latest edition of the state Department of Workforce Solutions’s monthly Labor Market Review, wage earners who transitioned into New Mexico’s legal cannabis industry generally enjoy higher earnings compared to their prior non-marijuana occupations. The report humorously notes that “the grass is greener in the cannabis industry” for certain individuals.

As of the conclusion of the previous year, New Mexico had a workforce of 4,666 individuals engaged in the state’s legal marijuana sector, which officially launched in April 2022. The Department of Workforce Solutions report indicates that nearly 90% of these employees were involved in the retail sector.

During its inaugural year of legal adult sales, New Mexico witnessed the sale of over $300 million worth of recreational cannabis products—an accomplishment highlighted by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) last month. Additionally, medical marijuana transactions amounted to $187.4 million.

According to the most recent state labor report released at the end of the previous month, the average weekly wages for cannabis workers by the end of 2022 were $560, slightly lower than wages in most other industries. However, upon examining wage records for cannabis employees dating back to the beginning of 2021, analysts discovered that those who transitioned to the marijuana industry generally experienced an increase in pay compared to their prior employment.

The report suggests that a motivating factor for individuals leaving their previous jobs to enter the cannabis industry was the opportunity for higher wages. The report states, “Analyzing their wage records shows that their average weekly wage increased once they joined the cannabis industry.”

Approximately one-third of cannabis workers’ wage records indicated they came from different industries. Notably, “Trade, transportation, and utilities had the highest share (11.1 percent), followed by leisure and hospitality (8.4 percent), education and health services (4.4 percent), and professional and business services (4.2 percent).”

About a quarter of workers had no reported wage data, which suggests they could have relocated from other states, recently graduated, or were self-employed. Nearly 40% of wage records originated from cannabis companies, indicating that these individuals were already working within the industry.

Throughout New Mexico, 151 cannabis firms were operational during the fourth quarter of 2022. Approximately 74.2% were retail establishments or online platforms. Another 21 companies were engaged in plant cultivation, 10 were processors, four were wholesalers, and four performed unspecified activities.

The majority of businesses were situated around population centers, with nearly one-third based in Bernalillo County, home to Albuquerque.

Similar discussions on marijuana sales have been happening in other states as well. In neighboring Arizona, the total adult-use cannabis purchases for 2022 reached $1.4 billion. Massachusetts’ recreational market officially surpassed $4 billion in sales in January, having launched in 2018.

In contrast, a prominent Wisconsin senator recently revealed a legislative analysis showcasing the substantial amount of money her state lost to Illinois last year. Wisconsin residents, who lack a regulated market, spent over $121 million on marijuana across the border.

Governor Lujan Grisham expressed her enthusiasm for the future growth of New Mexico’s innovative and secure adult-use cannabis industry. State officials are optimistic about the industry’s second year and have also taken steps like signing a bill to expunge past cannabis-related offenses, although a separate measure to halt incarceration for certain drug offenses was vetoed.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers are advancing a bill to establish a state body responsible for exploring the feasibility of launching a psilocybin therapy program for individuals with specific mental health conditions that could benefit from psychedelic use. In addition, the state’s medical marijuana program added insomnia as a qualifying condition last month.

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