What Marijuana Legalization Could Mean for the Market: A Message for America’s New ‘Jobs President’

Donald J. Trump wants to be the “jobs” president. In fact, he has repeatedly promised to be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” a promise he included in his formal announcement for president. “We are going to bring back jobs that have been stolen from you,” Trump frequently pledged on the campaign trail.

Trump’s relentless focus on jobs was a core component of his campaign and, as many political commentators have suggested, was vital to his victory. According to USA Today, Trump’s “…ascension to the White House caps a campaign that featured his pledge to spark a massive increase in employment and to lure manufacturing jobs back from overseas. He struck a chord with working-class white voters who flocked to the polls to back him.”

Now that Trump is on the way to the White House, many Americans across the aisle are beginning to come together around Trump’s jobs offensive. Recent results from a CNBC All-America survey reveal that, “an overwhelming 56 percent of those respondents said the top item on his economic agenda should be keeping jobs in the U.S.” CNBC Producer Elizabeth Schulze adds, “Support for Trump’s jobs message also transcended income levels. Financial elites, middle class and working class households all ranked it a top priority for the new administration.”

And America needs jobs too. The official U.S. unemployment rate was 4.4% in November, but that number is highly misleading. The real unemployment rate (U6) gives a much more accurate picture of the jobs situation in America today, and that number was 9.0% in November.

Creating Jobs—The Lifeblood of a Nation.

There are, of course, a number of things that President-elect Trump can do to create jobs in America today. There’s been a lot of talk from leading voices across the political spectrum about government spending on infrastructure, more equitable trade agreements, and pressuring nations to stop devaluing their currencies for unfair advantage. But there is another important area that is too often overlooked and that could prove to be an instrumental part of creating a strong, robust economy over the next several decades: the federal legalization of marijuana.

In Colorado, in 2015 alone, 18,000 full-time jobs were created by the legal marijuana industry. That figure, extended to the country as a whole (based on population), represents the potential to create an astonishing 1.2 million full-time jobs in the United States. Incidentally, the unemployment rate in Colorado for November 2016 was 3.2% (the U6 is estimated to be 6.5%).

To be sure, if marijuana were legalized at the federal level, this would create a wealth of opportunities beyond what is currently happening in the individual states, including a variety of interstate, regional and national synergies, as well as jobs created through importing and exporting opportunities, and a boost in tourism and travel to the U.S., all of which could potentially triple this figure.

Think 3.6 million jobs sounds far-fetched? It’s not. In fact, if the alcohol and tobacco industries offer any indication of what marijuana legalization could do for the U.S. economy, then this estimate may in fact be low. The Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., for example, puts the number of jobs in the alcohol industry at 3.9 million. Add the tobacco industry (which has dropped 56% since its peak in 1996), and we’re talking about an additional 1.8 to 3.1 million jobs (Keep in mind that the U.S. is the 4th largest tobacco-producing nation in the world.). Perhaps a more suitable comparison is the number of people working in the pharmaceutical industry, which Batelle puts at 3.4 million jobs as of 2013.

For perspective, consider that in the last 8 years under President Obama, the U.S. economy has added 9.3 million jobs. If the above analysis is even roughly accurate, the legalization of marijuana alone could achieve more than one-third of Obama’s mark.

The fact is the job creation rate—even now, with the federal prohibition of marijuana in effect—is one of the fastest growing in the nation. By rescheduling marijuana, President-elect Trump could create a great economic boon in America with the simple stroke of a pen.

It seems that the only remaining questions now are: Will Trump be able to surpass Obama’s 9.3 million jobs to become, as he promised, “the greatest jobs president that God ever created”? And does he have the courage to tap one of God’s most miraculous plants to do it?

John Welch | Staff Writer

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