Today is the first-ever job fair for marijuana workers, according to organizers of the event. They expect about 1,000 people to turn up in Denver for “CannaSearch,” where some 15 marijuana-related companies will be recruiting workers for everything from IT jobs to horticulture and quality control. The host of the event is vaporizer company O.penVAPE. "We're hosting this for the industry and for job seekers," company spokesman Todd Mitchem said in a press release. "We know jobseekers will be pleasantly surprised at the number of well-paying mainstream positions with comparable compensation available in this exciting new industry."
Among the companies who will be recruiting at the fair is THC The Hemp Connoisseur magazine, whose stated goal is to be “an elegant educational resource” for the industrial hemp and medical marijuana industries. “We believe that both industrial hemp and medical cannabis can open the doors to a better planet in regards to health care, environment and global economic prosperity,” says the magazine’s website.
Other companies attending the fair include the Cannabis Hemp Academy, which provides education, training and certification for people interested in the marijuana industry, including classes on cannabis cultivation and legal marijuana.
“It’s a growth industry”
The marijuana industry in Colorado is booming. This week, the state reported more than $14 million in recreational marijuana sales in January from 59 different businesses. The unemployment rate in Colorado is 6.2% as of December. That is well below the national average of 6.7%. “Obviously we have a jobs crisis in this country and this is a legal industry in Colorado and the fact that it’s creating jobs and there’s this jobs fair is a good news story,” said Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Aaron Task. “If you live in Colorado and unless you have some moral opposition to cannabis, why not?”
One report estimates the legal marijuana business could grow to more than $10 billion nationally in the next five years. Currently, Colorado is the first and only state to legalize recreational use of marijuana, but supporters of legalized marijuana are pushing for similar measures in Alaska and California.
“It’s a growth industry, no pun intended,” said Task. “The potential for this market and the sales that have already been generated in Colorado show that there is a big opportunity here.”
20 states and the District of Columbia currently allow medical marijuana in some form. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier this year announced a plan to allow 20 hospitals in the state to prescribe medical marijuana.
Don’t bank on financial support
While medical marijuana is legal in nearly half the states in the country, support for legal recreational marijuana business has faced hurdles. Some banks are hesitant to work with legal marijuana businesses in Colorado because there is no federal law that allows recreational marijuana use. The Treasury Department and the Justice Department last month issued new guidelines intended to reassure banks and financial institutions that they will not be punished for doing business with legitimate marijuana businesses in states where marijuana is legal. The banking industry remains skeptical. In response to the guidelines issued by the Obama Administration and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Frank Keating, President of the American Bankers Association released a statement saying, “While we appreciate the efforts by the Department of Justice and FinCEN, guidance or regulation doesn’t alter the underlying challenge for banks. As it stands, possession or distribution of marijuana violates federal law, and banks that provide support for those activities face the risk of prosecution and assorted sanctions.”
Banks are federally-regulated, so without a federal law that sanctions recreational marijuana use, it does create an issue for financial institutions that would do business with or issue loans to state-sanctioned marijuana businesses. In addition to the banks, the conflicting state and federal laws also raise questions for local businesses and customers in states where marijuana is legal.
“I hope there will be some sort of federal ruling on this one way or the other,” said Task. “You’re doing something that’s legal in the state, but illegal in the country and it does raise concerns for sure whether you’re a customer or you own a business in this industry.”