While cabbage, potatoes and other traditional vegetables have long been the celebrated mainstays of Alaska agriculture, marijuana may soon overtake them all.

Weed products pic

According to a new report from the Alaska Department of Labor, agriculture was one of the few business sectors that didn’t lose jobs during the pandemic, and that’s largely because of the explosion of marijuana shops and greenhouses around the state.

The small but quickly expanding industry added 73 jobs from 2019 to 2020.

“That was slower than it grew the year before, but that it grew at all in 2020, when big losses were the norm, is notable,” the October issue of Trends magazine states. “The marijuana industry has boomed since 2016, the year businesses got a foothold after legalization, growing 524 percent.”

The state report predicts that the weed industry will continue to skyrocket as it expands into smaller markets across the state. The bulk of those jobs will be in greenhouse grow operations.

“We project the broader agriculture sector will add 657 new jobs from 2020 to 2030, with 578 of those in greenhouses — a massive 86.4 percent growth rate for greenhouses and 42.9 percent for agriculture overall,” the report states.

The report further notes that farming, fishing, and forestry will add the most jobs proportionally, at a projected 38.2 percent, but that’s largely due to marijuana.

“Though still relatively small, this category has skyrocketed since legalization established the industry throughout Alaska,” the report observes. “Its dominant occupation is farmworkers and laborers (crop, nursery, and greenhouse), which represents about 40 percent of marijuana employment but 78 percent of its projected growth between 2020 and 2030.”

While supporters of legal marijuana claim it brings health benefits and increases tax revenue, critics of widespread marijuana consumption say it impairs short-term memory, increases engagement in risky behaviors and impairs driving.

Others warn that heavy and long-term cannabis use in adolescents carries substantial risks, including altered brain developmentadverse psychological outcomes and mental illness. A recent report in Tablet notes that modern-day marijuana is unrecognizable to that of the 1960s. The now edible, vapeable, and drinkable cannabis-based products are far more potent than the weed of decades past. “Addiction medicine doctors and relatives of addicts say it has become a hardcore drug, like cocaine or methamphetamines,” Tablet reports. “Chronic use leads to the same outcomes commonly associated with those harder substances: overdose, psychosis, suicidality. And yet it’s been marketed as a kind of elixir and sold like candy for grown-ups.”

Since widespread legalization of recreational marijuana is a relatively recent phenomenon, there remains a shortage of long-term studies about the affects of increased consumption on society.

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State report: Marijuana will increasingly define Alaska agriculture

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • Donna Nass says:

    Has marijuana been categorized as agriculture by a state agency?

  • Dee Cee says:

    I’m okay with this, to a degree.
    Let’s not repeat the same mistakes Oregon made. Where it went good for farmers was that it produced the cash crop that allowed them to grow/produce the things they love…. With marijuana grows in my home town of Gold Hill Oregon, you suddenly had honey, eggs, organic veggies, other crops showing up in the stores… not because the economics worked for these crops, but because marijuana was a cash cow in a small plot for these farmers. YES!

    Where it went wrong is the state of Oregon ignored their obligation to the DOJ to regulate the product in a way the prevented out of state export. But Oregon made so much $$$ from the tax revenue that they ignored their side of the bargain and allowed every swinging hoe have a grow permit… the second highest paying “job” in Gold Hill was, for a time, USPS currier. You know what they were shipping. Oregon produces far, far more weed than was consumed locally. Everyone made bank, and the state coffers over flowed. I say, don’t tax it at all… keep the state out of the marijuana business!!!!

  • Neil DeWitt says:

    How is it that Marijuana has been around since I was a kid in high school 50 years ago and you say it new? Is your statement (new) because it’s legal now?

    Others warn that heavy and long-term cannabis use in adolescents carries substantial risks, including altered brain development, adverse psychological outcomes and mental illness.
    This statement says it all. maybe we need to make it illegal to children under 21 like alcohol. I’m guessing if any of the people that have done tge school shootings were tested they probably all used at one time if not under the influence at the time of their actions. I for one would really like information on that.

    I’m thinking yes the state is rolling in Marijuana tax revenues but is it worth our children’s lives?

  • Proud Alaskan says:

    It’s still a federal offense.

  • Concerned Alaskan says:

    It’s dangerous (and nearly banned) to smoke cigarettes that doesn’t alter brain cells. However, it’s okay to smoke an invasive species plant that’s highly addictive to humans. This permissive “hypocrisy” is feeding the “entrance drug” to more dangerous poisons. The by-product result is higher crime.

  • Akdale says:

    booooooo. Marijuana is a stain on our state that needs to go away as a recreational drug. you want recreation, get off your lazy ass and hike, run, bike, ski, ride a motorized toy, play games, get a hobby…and deal with the reason you want to run from reality and veg out. Just done with it and those that want to try and convince everyone how good it is. BS! The same to those who suck down mind altering amounts of alcohol. Get a grip people, life is short. Spend it with a clear head and a healthy body.

  • RB7 says:

    There are so many misunderstandings about Cannabis. Those who don’t use it and have no experience with it are the ones who yell the loudest about how bad it is. Cannabis has been around since the dawn of time. The truth about Cannabis, and why our handlers don’t want us to have it, is that it produces a spiritual and introspective experience. It is healing. Our bodies are made for it. Although I don’t believe in smoking it, I fully understand its effects. The only way to experience its full effect is to purge your body of manmade toxins. A feat in itself, but rewarding. Besides, who cares if the other guy wants to grow or smoke weed. No one cares about booze or cigs/vape. Both far more harmful than Cannabis has ever been.