Food and weed are inextricably entwined imaginations, naturally the same is true economically. After all, where goes legal weed, so goes McDonald’s sales. But it’s easy to forget marijuana is an illegal industry shifting to a legal one. We’re at the end of a prohibition and that is always going to create interesting new problems. When a state legalizes marijuana, it ripples across the entirety of the state, from the criminal justice system to, it turns out, fine dining.
Restaurants in Colorado are reporting a severe labor shortage, which they claim is thanks to legal marijuana. The Denver Post has a long piece about the struggles of the local restaurant industry, but the problem, fundamentally, is pretty simple. You can get paid more for less demanding work cutting bud, so why work in a kitchen?
Entry-level bud trimmers make $12-15 an hour, but speedy cutters can earn upward of $20, according to cannarecruiter.com. This compares with average of $12.83 per hour paid to line and prep cooks — still above minimum wage, but considering the physical demands of kitchen work, many people choose jobs that don’t require them to perform near-constant aerobic feats in a windowless, 90-degree room.
Colorado restauranteurs also note that low unemployment and rising business is a factor. But to some degree, saying the marijuana industry is to blame looks past what the entire restaurant industry has been unwilling to discuss for a while. Working the back of the house is a miserable, underpaying job, and a labor shortage was probably inevitable.