Personal views on psychoactive substances notwithstanding, there’s proof coming out of Colorado that politicians really can create jobs — not by passing top-down legislation telling businesses how to operate, but by getting out of the way and drawing down regulation.
Last week, an estimated 1,200 motivated job seekers looking for positions in IT, horticulture, quality control, accounting, medicine and logistics showed up for a Denver-area job fair hosted by O.PenVAPE, a company that produces marijuana vaporizing pens.
The event, dubbed “CannaSearch,” featured 15 potential employers in the newly legal and fast growing marijuana industry.
“People started showing up about 6 a.m. this morning, for the doors opening at 11 a.m.,” Tim Cullen, a marijuana entrepreneur, told CBS in an interview about the Thursday event. “The line is longer than a block now.”
And while marijuana and its users suffer a long-standing — and, in many cases, well deserved — stigma, it would be foolish to consider the jobs available at last week’s event relegated to an unmotivated class of lifelong stoners who can’t find jobs anywhere else.
The situation is actually quite the opposite, even if familiarity with the long-illicit plant might have been desired by some of the potential employers present.
“I have a hospitality degree, so I’ve been looking in the hotels, casinos, sales positions,” one 27-year-old attendee told CBS. “I’m just looking all over.”
The companies represented have made clear that they are seeking serious and productive employees. And with business booming — marijuana sales brought in $14 million for newly legitimate Colorado businesses in January alone — it would be bad business to hire any other kind.
“… [H]ere at O.penVAPE we are looking for a bookkeeper, customer service representatives and additions to our sales support team,” Calisa Griffin, an O.PenVAPE spokeman, told the Huffington Post. “Companies will be looking for copywriters, graphic designers, tour guides, Web developers, and a ton of other mainstream jobs. We also have a few dispensaries coming out that will be looking for budtenders and trimmers so there should be something for every kind of applicant.”
Only applicants 21 or older were considered for positions at the event.
Is marijuana bad for society? Does the drug make people stupid and lazy? Both are questions that are up for debate in the realms of both scientific study and personal belief. What isn’t up for debate, however, is that from a purely fiscal standpoint, the experiment in Colorado proves that government can’t go wrong giving Americans the liberty to exercise their own personal responsibility with regard to what they eat, drink, smoke and snort.
A paper originally put out in 2005 by Harvard economics professor Jeffrey Miron estimated that government could save as much as $7.7 billion each year — $5.3 billion at the State and local levels and $2.4 billion in the Federal budget — by eliminating marijuana from its War on Drugs. In addition, Miron’s report indicates that a national approach to marijuana mirroring the Colorado model could potentiate $13.7 billion in yearly tax revenue throughout the Nation. The findings of that report have since been backed up by at least 300 economists.
Beyond Miron’s report, a 2007 study found that U.S. taxpayers are on the hook for $1 billion annually to pay for the incarceration of inmates booked on marijuana-related charges.
On the other side of the coin, the illicit marijuana trade that is propped up by prohibition funds people who have made a conscious decision to be involved in criminal activity to the tune of no less than $36 billion each year. You can bet that a healthy portion of that money is making its way into the hands of ruthless criminals and heartless cartels.
Legalizing marijuana isn’t, as some advocates pretend, some magic wand cure-all that will empty prisons, put all criminals out of work and leave the United States in a state of happy, hazy utopia. But it also doesn’t create the sort of threat to society that private prison companies, police officer unions and politicians raised on “Reefer Madnesss” (or those supported by the aforementioned groups) lead voters to believe.
Unfortunately, as most libertarian-leaning observers point out, it’s the extremists on both sides of the argument who tend to get the most attention. Despite the static, more and more people are leaning toward legalizing marijuana — even, surprisingly to some, conservative Americans.
Polling at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the Nation’s largest gathering of like-minded conservatives, showed 41 percent in favor of full-on legalization and taxation and 31 percent in favor of leaving the drug laws alone.
Just as many of the job seekers in Denver showed up for “CannaSearch” because they want to work rather than out of a love for pot, many of those coming around to favor legalization of the drug don’t support or even condone its use. They simply like the sound of new jobs, decreased government spending, increased tax revenue from something they may not ever purchase and a chance to eliminate one more thing that adds to the size of government.
And to argue that any of those things are bad, you’d have to be stoned.