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How has COVID-19 affected the industry in terms of sales, hiring, and legalization? So far, weed is proving to be recession-proof. However, there have been some hardships along the way.

Even before the pandemic hit, the industry was seeing fast expansion. During the pandemic, pot is one of the few industries that has seen rising sales and hiring numbers. Many states deemed weed businesses essential. This contributed to the market’s steady growth.

Industry Reaches Record Sales

As COVID-19 panic reached its height, many people rushed to the stores to pick up essentials. Among these were toilet paper, antibacterial products, and even pot. Overall, weed users are spending more per visit. However, they seem to be shopping less often. While sales have spiked and dipped in many states, they remain higher than 2019 sales.

Many states have even experienced record sales numbers. Here are a few of the states thriving in a pandemic:

  • Illinois: For five months in a row, the state reported record-breaking weed sales. In September, consumers spent more than $67 million. About $18 million of the sales were from out-of-state visitors.
  • Oregon: Over the summer, pot sales averaged more than $100 million. Flower sales, in particular, have spiked.
  • Colorado: Weed sales were seeing a steady upward trend. There was a minor dip in August. Overall, medical and adult-use sales have reached about $1.42 billion in 2020. They are expected to surpass the $2 billion mark by the end of the year.
  • Washington: 2020 marks the first time the state’s growth rate has gone up year-over-year. Statewide sales have increased by more than 20%.

Hiring Continues

As the pandemic continues, hiring in the industry seems to be strong in some areas. A report from Vangst, LeafLink, and Flowhub analyzed the impact COVID-19 had on sales and employment trends. At the start of 2020, a large majority of ancillary, plant-touching, and vertically-integrated companies were looking to hire. After the pandemic hit, most of these companies had to layoff or furlough employees.

After several months of the pandemic, 68% of companies are ready to resume hiring during the second half of 2020. In early 2020, many companies were trying to fill C-suite jobs. This type of hiring has slowed down. Now, sales, marketing, and IT jobs are more in-demand than ever. In fact, hiring in these areas has remained consistent throughout the pandemic.

COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders forced many companies to pivot their business operations. About 79% of companies introduced curbside pickup and delivery. 43% went all-in on digital marketing and e-commerce. As a result, IT and marketing jobs are in high demand. The total job count could reach 295,000 in the US’s weed industry by the end of the year. That's a 50% increase over the 2019 job count.

Between 2020 and 2024, the market is expected to add 250,000 full-time weed jobs. However, if sales drop, hiring could, too. For now, weed seems to be pandemic-proof.

Cannabis Education Enrollment Rises

COVID-19 has upended many students’ college experience. An August 2020 poll shows just that. It found that 22% of college students weren’t planning on returning for a fall semester. The hardship of remote learning and safety concerns were at play. As many students leave college, some are turning toward weed education programs to break into the industry.

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Some students are taking a gap year to figure things out. During this time, they are taking advantage of affordable weed training programs. In fact, Cannabis Training University saw a 108% increase in enrollments over the summer. Enrollment jumped from about 500 students a month to 1,000 students a month. For many students, the grass seems greener on the pot industry's side.

Cannabis Research and COVID-19

COVID-19 vaccine trials are underway. We’re still far from its mass-production for everyone. During this time, some research has been focused on the prevention and treatment of the disease using weed. Pot has shown to treat some COVID-19 symptoms and its lethal complications.

In preliminary studies on mice, THC was shown to prevent the harmful immune response that causes Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). During this chaotic immune response, the lungs and organs can be damaged. In over a dozen experiments in three studies, 100% of the mice survived after being treated with THC. Of course, there are significant differences between mice and humans and how they interact with the drug.

A lot of evidence shows that CBD and terpenes can have a major effect on the treatment of cytokine storms and inflammation. Severe COVID-19 cases have shown to benefit from CBD. CBD has shown to reduce inflammation-causing cytokines and the risk of permanent organ damage.

Not All Is Well

As a whole, pot sales and hiring are up. However, not every company is experiencing record growth. Some have had to layoff and furlough employees due to stay-at-home orders. Manufacturing and hospitality industries were especially affected. As a result, many low-wage employees were hit hard.

Federal stimulus packages have largely ignored the needs of the industry. Due to the drug’s status as a controlled substance, weed companies were not eligible for relief. A lack of banking and financing options also left companies in a hole. Stimulus money isn’t likely to reach pot companies anytime soon.

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Campaigns Suspend Ballot Initiatives

At the start of the year, about a dozen states were on their way to getting weed initiatives on the ballot. Then, the pandemic hit. Most groups had to suspend their signature-collecting efforts. Stay-at-home orders and a lack of signature-collecting alternatives all but ended their green dream.

Six state campaigns were negatively affected by the virus. However, at least five state initiatives are still on state ballots. New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, South Dakota, and Mississippi are set to vote for or against legal weed. Pretty soon, the industry may be expanding despite the pandemic.

COVID-19 has plagued many industries and the global economy and health. Beneath the dark cloud, the industry’s resilience is a silver lining. Newly unemployed workers are turning to weed for a career change. If you’re ready to make the leap, enroll in CTU’s online Master of Marijuana training program.