Last week, Aphria and Tilray, two of the world’s largest cannabis companies, merged into one international behemoth. Both firms are Canadian, but Tilray is US-incorporated and trades on NASDAQ, where its stock soared upwards of 500% after the deal, leveling off at around $25, still more than double the price it traded at for much of 2020. The merger, as well New Jersey’s long-awaited legalization of recreational marijuana (which just passed yesterday), has brought attention to the fact that cannabis is one of 2020’s lesser-discussed “winner” industries. 

People smoked a lot of weed last year. While the US economy lost 10 million jobs and shrunk 3.4% in 2020, the cannabis industry added 78,000 legal, full-time jobs and saw sales rise over 70%, according to the 2021 Leafly report (the leading cannabis job study, since the Department of Labor doesn’t survey the federally illegal industry). The industry now supports 321,000 Americans, who helped grow, market and ship $18.3 billion in weed sales. 

This is typical — “vice industries” like alcohol, tobacco and drugs historically boom during crises. Growing demographics included parents and first-time tokers. Also blazing sales: since November, recreational marijuana has become legal in new states — in addition to New Jersey yesterday, Arizona, Montana and South Dakota passed recreational legalization while Mississippi voted “yes” on medical. Though the federal government still classifies marijuana in the same drug class as heroin, it’s now recreationally legal in 15 states plus Washington D.C., and medically available in 37. In addition, the industry adapted to lockdown. Many brands pivoted voting to curbside pick-up and delivery, while the industry managed to get dispensaries classified as “essential” in major markets like Los Angeles. 

Some sectors’ boomed in 2020 thanks to pandemic-related demands that erupted overnight, while others saw already-simmering trends brought to a boil. While it’s prudent to wonder how many workers Clorox will lay off next year, for its part, cannabis was already on a rapid growth trajectory. Since 2017, the US cannabis industry has averaged 27.5% growth each year. Though 32% job growth is an astonishing figure during a recession, Leafly points out that weed jobs actually grew slower than sales, in part a result of closed dispensaries. Unlike Peloton or Zoom, weed will be helped, not hurt, when retail fully reopens.

Who’s hiring? 

Canada’s new supercompany is dominating headlines, but the US’s booming cannabis job market is just one sign of its rapidly growing weigh, as full legalization looms. Business of Business used LinkedIn and other hiring data for top US cannabis firms to find out which companies are driving job growth up, all across the country and niches of the industry.

While international companies distribute in America, we’ve included only American companies in order to capture the jobs documented by in Leafly’s national study. Notably, data wasn’t available for some major US companies like KushCo, while data for other big names like MedMen, surprisingly showed a shrinking LinkedIn portfolio that trends against overall cannabis job market. Learn more about the top companies creating American jobs, from young start-ups to century-old gardening companies, below.

Note: Drops in the employee count lines are due to blips in the available data, not sudden purges of hundreds of workers. 

  • Curaleaf

    LinkedIn count, January 2020: 370
    LinkedIn count, February 2021: 1,040
    Percent growth: 181%
    Headquarters: Wakefield, Massachusetts 

Curaleaf became the largest cannabis company in the US by revenue earlier this year when it acquired Illinois-based Grassroots Cannabis. The deal brought Curaleaf up to 88 dispensaries across 23 states, in six of which it’s the market leader. 

  • Green Thumb Industries

    LinkedIn count, January 2020: 345
    LinkedIn count, February 2021: 714
    Percent growth: 107%
    Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois

Green Thumb, one of Curaleaf’s major rivals, has 13 manufacturing facilities, 96 retail locations and operations across 12 US states. It’s staff is smaller than Curaleaf, but the company recently announced its selling 10 million shares, already scoring a $100 million deal, a cash infusion that’ll help them continue to expand across the US. Last year, they hired most heavily among retail associates. 

  • Trulieve

    LinkedIn count, January 2020: 375
    LinkedIn count, February 2021: 736
    Percent growth: 95%
    Headquarters: Quincy, Florida

Trulieve was the first cannabis company in Florida when it first legalized medical use in 2014. It remains the largest company in the state today, with 68 stores and 73 nationwide across five others including Pennsylvania, where it acquired multiple firms in 2020 and West Virginia, where it was licensed earlier this month. Trulieve’s staff nearly doubled over the course of 2020, as it opened four new locations in Florida on top of its acquisitions.

  • Nabis

    LinkedIn count, January 2020: 37
    LinkedIn count, February 2021: 64
    Percent growth: 72%
    Headquarters: Oakland, California

Founded in 2017, Nabis is a logistics company that handles shipping, payment and warehousing for the cannabis industry, also a distributor that handles partnerships between manufacturers and cultivators to brands and vendors. Investors have noticed how it’s helping modernize the cannabis industry Nabis raised $5 million in November, that helped spur its 72% job growth.

  • Leaflink

    LinkedIn count, February 2020: 94
    LinkedIn count, February 2021: 141
    Percent growth: 50%
    Headquarters: Los Angeles, California

Similar to Nabis, Leaflink wholesale online cannabis marketplace designed to facilitate the supply chain. Retailers can purchase orders of merchandise from distributors and directly fro brands. It’s the largest online network of licensed cannabis businesses in any capacity. After raising $40 million in early 2020, the company consistently hired all year, growing their staff 50%. The company still has 40 jobs posted, up from 7 in December.

  • Harvest Health & Recreation

    LinkedIn count, March 2020: 277
    LinkedIn count, February 2021: 347
    Percent growth: 25%
    Headquarters: Tempe, Arizona

With around 200 locations in 17 states, Harvest Health and Recreation has one of the largest footprints in cannabis across the US. They’ve been based in Arizona, where they have 15 dispensaries, since 2011, an opportune location since the state legalized recreational marijuana last year.

  • Arena Pharmaceuticals 

    LinkedIn count, January 2020: 376
    LinkedIn count, February 2021: 471
    Percent growth: 25%
    Headquarters: San Diego, California

Some of the innovation in the marijuana industry is happening at biotech companies creating cannabinoid treatments. Most of Arena Pharmaceuticals drugs are non-cannabis based, but the clinical-stage company is in trials for a CBD-derived pain relief drug that’s helpful for IBS. With successful non-cannabinoid drugs in their portfolio, their staff grew 25% in 2020. Unlike most traditional cannabis companies, Arena trades on the US stock market as opposed to the Canadian Securities Exchange. Its share price has risen albeit unsteadily through 2020 as they hired.

  • Cara Therapeutics 

    LinkedIn count, January 2020: 69
    LinkedIn count, February 2021: 85
    Percent growth: 23%
    Headquarters: Stamford, Connecticut

Cara Therapeutics is known for a non-addictive opioid drug to treat itching, but it also has several cannabis-based pain relief drugs in the works. Its share price has grown in step with its 23% increase in employees listed on LinkedIn.

  • Charlotte’s Web

    LinkedIn count, January 2020: 193
    LinkedIn count, February 2021: 231
    Percent growth: 19%
    Headquarters: Boulder, Colorado

Perhaps it’s surprising that Charlotte’s Web is the first Colorado-based company on this list. But while newer companies in more recently legalized states are racing to bulk up their staffs, Charlotte’s Web, which is on the CBD side of the cannabis industry, a leader in hemp extract products, is doing the same. The company hired 40 employees over the past year, although some predict that widespread legalization of marijuana could actually be bad for the CBD and hemp sub-industries.

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They’re still hiring although inconsistently. While the company only had 1 job listed in mid-January, the company now has 10.

  • Weedmaps

    LinkedIn count, January 2020: 493
    LinkedIn count, February 2021: 517
    Percent growth: 16%
    Headquarters: Irvine, California

Weedmaps is something like the Google of weed, in function, if not success. It’s an all encompassing search platform-online forum-marketplace where you can search for dispensaries, delivery services, products, brands, nearby deals, specific strains, accessories and more. In December, the company announced it was going public with a $1.5 billion SPAC merger with Silver Spike Acquisition Company. Leading up to that, the company hired around 20 new employees in 2020.

  • Scott’s Miracle-Gro

    LinkedIn count, January 2020: 3,270
    LinkedIn count, February 2021: 3,450
    Percent growth: 6%
    Headquarters: Marysville, Ohio

Scott’s Miracle-Gro is an unusual cannabis company. Founded in the 1860’s, the company is one of the biggest names in lawn care, pest control and gardening. However, CEO Jim Hagedorn has called cannabis “the biggest thing [he’s] ever seen in lawn and garden.” In 2015, the company formed Hawthorne Gardening Company an umbrella for their 40 brands catering to cannabis industry, including those selling hydroponics, fertilizer, seeds, air filters, lighting and more. While they’ve only seen 6% increase in their LinkedIn listings, the company’s share price rose nearly 100% during 2020. 

They’re also still on a hiring spree. Scott’s Miracle-Gro job listings have shot up from 150 in June, to well over 600, concentrated in Texas, California, Virginia and New Jersey, the latter two of which legalized marijuana in recent months.

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.

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