No one really knows how many people are employed in the legal marijuana industry, but that could change soon.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed to MassRoots that it will soon begin tracking cannabis sector employment, similar to the way it already tabulates workforce numbers for many other industries.
The “industry coding system we currently use doesn’t include marijuana-related industries,” the agency wrote in a response to a Twitter query on Monday. “New system that we will move to later in 2017 does include industries for growing, wholesale, and retail.”
But BLS added that it won’t necessarily release any numbers. “New industry classification means data can be collected, but publishing depends on data quality,” it said.
The agency further clarified that it is important to “protect respondent confidentiality,” something that may be increasingly important if the Trump administration moves against state-legal marijuana businesses. “For example, if # of businesses is small, we might not be able to publish if doing so could identify individual respondents.”
Until BLS moves ahead with its new plans and hopefully publishes data, all we have to rely on are projections from marijuana industry outfits.
Marijuana Business Daily, for example, estimated last year that between 100,000 and 150,000 people are currently employed by cannabis companies.
The Marijuana Policy Group figured last year that there were 12,591 marijuana business workers in Colorado.
Most recently, New Frontier Data projected that the cannabis industry will create 283,422 jobs by 2020.
But these numbers — while impressive — are from sources within the industry itself, and observers could be forgiven for skepticism about possible self-serving bias toward making the sector seem as big and influential as possible.
If BLS does begin making estimates and releasing numbers later this year, investors, lawmakers and regulators will likely have a much better sense of the real size of the marijuana industry, at least compared to other areas of the economy, calculated using similar agreed-upon methodology.