The Cannabis Workforce Is Experiencing Significant Shifts

diverse group of humans across gender and race
Illustration: Angelina Bambina / Shutterstock

DENVER – As the cannabis industry grows and evolves, so does its workforce. According to a new study by hiring platform Vangst, the nearly 400,000 people working in the industry coast to coast in 2021 were more diverse and better compensated than ever before.

The industry employed 37 percent more Black workers in 2021 than in 2020, according to the study. The number of Indigenous peoples in the industry also rose, by 40 percent, and the Asian workforce increased by 1.4 percent. On the other hand, the number of Pacific Islanders and Latinx workers declined by 32 percent and 23 percent, respectively. At the same time, the number of White workers declined by 3 percent. The shifting ethnic composition of the workplace may indicate employers are making conscientious efforts to hire from at least some groups impacted by the war on drugs.


Despite increased hiring from minority groups, 65 percent of industry workers are White, vastly outnumbering the next two most common ethnicities, Latinx (8.8 percent) and Black (8.3 percent).

Veterans, people with disabilities, and non-binary individuals also compose larger portions of the workforce, according to the survey, increasing by 7 percent, 9 percent, and 34 percent respectively. The disparity between male and female industry members widened slightly, with the male population seeing a 0.8-percent increase while women saw a 1.4-percent decline.

In the aggregate, compensation grew between 2020 and 2021, with some categories benefitting more than others. Hourly pay ranged from a low of $14 across all sectors to a high of $30 for manufacturing production technicians. Retail general managers earned from $55,000 to $90,000 annually, roughly mirroring the salaries of managers at comparable levels in the cultivation, manufacturing, and labs-and-extraction sectors. Salaries in the executive suite varied widely, from a low of $165,000 for vice president of marketing to $415,000 for chief revenue officer and tech-startup founder/CEO.