Michigan: Jobs doubled in 2020
A new report claims the number of people working in Michigan’s marijuana industry doubled over the past year. It’s difficult to put a firm number on Michigan pot employment since no government agency or industry group is tracking it.
But Seattle-based cannabis industry website Leafly is out with its fifth annual national jobs estimate. The report estimates nationally 321,000 people are working in the industry in states where medical, adult-use or both are legal.
Troy Hendrix holds a Cookies' cannabis flower for sale at Gage Cannabis Co. in Ferndale on Wednesday Feb. 24, 2021.
Industry Leaders [GAGE]:
Leafly spokesman Bruce Barcott places Michigan’s cannabis job number at 18,078, an increase of 9,200 over their 2019 estimate.
“It’s not going to stop growing, but it will cool off,” says Barcott. “Essentially 2020 was the big bang for Michigan’s legal cannabis industry.”
That's because 2020 was the first full year of legal recreational Marijuana sales in Michigan. 56% of Michiganders voted in favor of legalizing recreational pot use in 2018.
Leafly’s jobs estimate is calculated from the nearly one billion dollars in combined sales of adult-use and medical marijuana in Michigan last year.
Outside the cannabis industry, the U.S. economy shrank by 3.5%, the unemployment rate almost doubled, and nearly 10 million Americans saw their jobs disappear,” the report notes
Cannabis Industry Leads In Job Growth
The speed of cannabis job growth exceeds the pace of any other industry in the United States. The number of jobs in the industry has doubled since 2018 and grown 161% over the last four years.
“Since 2017, the U.S. cannabis industry has averaged 27.5% growth each year,” Leafly wrote. “No other industry even comes close.”
Commenting on the economic importance of cannabis during the pandemic, Leafly CEO Yoko Miyashita called for marijuana policy reforms at the national level.
“We’re proud of the cannabis industry as a bright spot for so many after a difficult 2020. The essential cannabis industry is our nation’s unseen and unrecognized economic engine, creating good, full-time jobs that have helped to keep people and local economies afloat,” Miyashita in a press release. “It’s time that our federal policies reflect this reality, and we legalize cannabis while ensuring equity and participation for those disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs, so everyone can benefit from this rapidly growing industry.”
GAGE: A Day in the Life of a MI Dispensory:
Glazed and Confused, Shango, Skymint, Herbology, Lume, Gage, Pleasantrees or Dank on Arrival read some of the storefront signs.
After presenting ID to verify you’re over 21, employees usher you into the showroom, usually through a very sturdy door. You behold a well-lit room with jewelry cases and glitzy displays. However, there are no gems or Rolex watches for sale.
It’s all marijuana, As Michigan’s recreational cannabis industry surges into its second year of existence on pace to generate more than $770 million dollars annually -- $1.2 billion, if you include medical marijuana sales -- the customer experience is also evolving, especially when you throw a pandemic into the mix.
Michigan’s brand-new market has also experienced huge shifts in retail pricing as supply fills out to match demand.
Gage employee, Rachel Oetzman, stands behind the counter the Gage Cannabis Co. and shows off their display in Ferndale on Wednesday Feb. 24, 2021.
“Retail pricing dropped from 25%-40% between July and November” and are continuing to trend down, said Matt Kowalski, manager of Shango in Bay City.
The state Marijuana Regulatory Agency no longer includes average retail flower prices in their monthly statistical reports, but prior data shows the average retail cost for an ounce of marijuana declined 35%, from about $500 per ounce to $323 per ounce, between January of 2020 and the same month this year.
Through 2020, pre-order, delivery and curbside sales altered the buying experience, but many marijuana shops are now reopening their doors to customers. Celebrities and sports stars, like Snoop Dogg, Detroit Pistons great Isiah Thomas, actor-comedian Tommy Chong and future Detroit Lions Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson, are becoming the faces of and investors behind a multitude of new products.
With an influx of deep-pocketed investment groups and federal legalization on the horizon -- which would likely expand the footprint of large, multi-state businesses -- there’s some behind-the-scenes grappling between the big and little guys as they spar for market share and long-term success.
“I don’t know if I want like the Budweiser and the big corporations to come in and squash the locals,” said Tim Hodgkiss, general manager of 20 Past 4 Provisioning Center in Jackson. “The market was built by local businesses.”
He believes it will take sophisticated and knowledgeable consumers concerned with more that just “the best deal,” to keep some of the smaller businesses afloat.
State officials and insiders say the industry continues to grow at a brisk pace and believe the potential market of 6.5 million Michigan residents over the age of 21 is far from fully tapped.
A flurry of daunting new lingo and an ever-expanding array of products -- among them pre-rolls, tinctures, vapes, wax, edibles and soon THC-infused drinks -- can intimidate rookie customers.
This is part of the reason Hodgkiss and other retailers spend a lot of time training sales clerks, referred to as bud tenders, to guide new and longtime marijuana users to products they desire.
Flower: 6,696 pounds sold for $34.7 million in January!
“The flower market in Michigan still reins supreme,” said Gage Cannabis President Fabian Monaco, whose company has grow and processing facilities as well as a chain of seven retail stores across the state. “It’s the queen of the categories. Michiganders love their flower.”
As customers enter the showroom of Shango in Bay City, they’re greeted by tall display cases filled with various strains of smokable marijuana, referred to as flower.
Flower, although in a raw form, is one of the most complex products in a marijuana shop due to its variability, a vast number of strains, growing techniques, smells and highs they produce.
Customers looking for a relaxed, sedative high, something to eliminate pain or help induce sleep, are directed toward Indica-based flower. The more popular sativa-based strains produce a euphoric high and are more uplifting.
“It’s because you can still do things with your life,” a Shango budtender said, explaining sativa’s popularity.
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As the marketplace becomes more saturated with new growers, processors and their products, customers are going to have a widening range of options.
Kowalski said it’s variety that really sets stores apart from one another. He expects trends to continue with heavy focus on flower, continued interest in vaping and growing demand for edibles.
Monaco, of Gage Cannabis, whose company operates Cookies brand retail stores through an exclusive partnership, said the widening array of products shouldn’t scare off curious consumers.
“Now that Michigan is starting to open up a little bit more, that gives us more opportunity to interact with customers on a one-on-one basis, which really helps with that first-time consumer,” he said.
Monaco recommends doing some online research to check reviews of popular strains and brands and figure out what type of consumption you might enjoy, but said bud tenders will also be useful in directing customers to what they desire.
“It’s about trying things,” Monaco said. Even experienced marijuana users “love trying new products, new flavors, new ways of consumption.
“For that new consumer, go after the popular brand names that have already been validated by many, many, may consumers before you and you should probably have a great experience.”