Vicente: This 4/20 celebrate that marijuana businesses and their employees are now “essential”

For decades, April 20 has been recognized as an unofficial marijuana holiday in Colorado and around the country. While this year’s “4/20” may not be marked by large public rallies or concerts due to enduring COVID-19 safety restrictions, there are plenty of reasons for the cannabis community to celebrate — including recent legalization announcements in New Mexico, New York, and Virginia — and for cannabis industry workers to be recognized.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the risks and sacrifices of frontline workers to help others have been celebrated and praised with red hearts in windows and yard signs thanking hospital workers and those who provide our groceries and public services. These folks absolutely deserve our praise and gratitude. Additionally, though, there is a group of more than 320,000 “essential” workers across the U.S. who’ve endured risks and sacrifices to help others: the people who grow, process, package, test, and sell legal cannabis.

In 2020 the cannabis industry was the fastest-growing industry in the U.S., despite the crippling economic effects of pandemic-related closures and quarantines. According to the Leafly 2021 Jobs Report, the cannabis industry added more than 77,000 jobs, marking a 32% increase from 2019. Astonishingly, cannabis workers now outnumber dentists, EMTs, and electrical engineers in the U.S., and cannabis sales are providing a valuable and consistent source of new tax revenue to struggling state and local economies.

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