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Legal Cannabis is a Boon to Oregon's Economy



Legal sales of so-called "recreational" cannabis have been ongoing in Oregon for only about eight months. Non-medicinal cannabis became legal on July 1, 2015, but sales through existing medical marijuana dispensaries did not begin until Oct. 1, 2015. Data from those initial sales are starting to become public, and show that Oregon's new legal cannabis industry is fulfilling the promise of providing a boost to Oregon's struggling economy.

Perhaps the best news of all is that the industry is generating jobs. According to the Oregon Cannabis Jobs Report, prepared by industry consultants, Oregon's cannabis industry will create over 2,100 new jobs in 2016. Those jobs will pay $46 million in wages to Oregon workers. Most of the jobs are part-time positions with growers and retailers. Consequently, most of the jobs do not offer any benefits, such as health insurance.

According to the Oregon Employment Department, its statewide survey conducted last year revealed that the average medical marijuana dispensary worker earns approximately $12 an hour, or about $21,000 a year, which is about $2.25 above the state's minimum wage. The wages are in line with wages for all retail employees in the state, which are in the range of $20,000 to $30,000 per year, according to the Employment Department's data.

With legalization, $46 million in wages now generate income tax revenue from employment in the legal market, which would otherwise be flowing through Oregon's illegal cannabis trade

Oregon's cannabis industry is actually employment intensive. The Oregon Cannabis Jobs Report states that the cannabis industry employs about 50 percent more people than the alcohol industry in the state, even though retail alcohol sales greatly exceed retail cannabis sales.

Industry data are also providing a metric on how well the industry is competing with the black market. The website allows cannabis consumers to enter purchase prices for cannabis, regardless of whether it was purchased legally or illegally. reports that Oregon enjoys the lowest cannabis price of all US states by a wide margin, with an ounce priced at approximately $181.

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