11 Ways to Work in the Cannabis Industry
Whether you’re a pro, fresh out of college or on the lookout for your first gig, the cannabis industry could be the place for you. According to a new report released last month, our industry has generated over 211,000 full-time jobs as of march 2019, with more than 64,000 positions opening up in 2018 alone. Cannabis research firm New Frontier Data is estimating this figure will climb up to almost 300,000 by 2020. That means there will soon be more people working for the cannabis industry than there will be flight attendants, interior designers, massage therapists or veterinarians in the entire country.
But not so fast, some might say, quantity is no guarantee for quality. Well, there are even more good news for cannabis job hunters, since the cannabis job market is not only expanding, it also getting better paid. According to a report by Vangst, the average cannabis salary was increased by 16.1% between 2017 and 2018, with over 70% of employees getting medical insurance. Glassdoor even reported that the average cannabis job pays over 10% higher than the US median salary.
Opportunities are on the rise for people from all corners of society: the site reports that around half the openings search for professionals and technicians, while the other half is open to profiles without higher education. So forget your excuses, because if you’re interested in the cannabis industry, there’s probably a position out there for you.
Having to deal with a highly regulated industry, cannabis business owners can have a hard time navigating through the vast sea of local, state and federal regulations that need to be followed for their company to stay legit. That’s why they hire Compliance Managers to keep track of every new law out there, perform audits on their business’ operations and supervise procedures. CMs make sure everything is in the right place and save their companies the hustle of getting caught inadvertently doing something outside the law. Compliance Managers are often required a Bachelor’s Degree in business administration or similar, and experience in highly regulated industries like tobacco and pharmaceutical is always a plus. Keeping track of inventory is usually also a part of their job description.
Today, cannabis comes in many forms: edibles, chewabled, tinctures, topicals, sprays, oils, vaping cartridges and more. Whenever someone is using a commercial form of cannabis that doesn’t involve burning flower buds, a Director of Extraction is behind that product. And since cannabis concentrates are turning out to be the boom-within-the-boom of the cannabis industry, this position is becoming widely sought-after. Extraction Technicians include Extraction Directors and specialized lab technicians that take care of every aspect of the extraction process, from designing and setting-up the extraction facilities, to making sure every process is done safely and in compliance with regulations. Qualifications usually include a degree in chemistry, biochemistry or other related sciences.
Lab Technician and Analyst
Chemists and other related professionals have even more opportunities in the cannabis sector, that are not limited to extraction. Since every product out there needs to be tested before it hits the shelves, cannabis companies are generating a very high demand for lab technicians who can perform tests on products to check for cannabinoid and terpenes content, as well as residual solvents, pesticides, microbes, water content, mold and heavy metals. Lab experience is always a plus and a degree in chemistry is usually required.
This might be the first job to come to mind when thinking of a cannabis career, and it’s a definitely good choice for job hunters who don’t have a college degree but sure do know a lot about the plant. A budtender is the go-to person for every cannabis consumer looking for a great experience, be it rec or medical. They need to be informed on every new strain, product and technology out there, but most importantly, they need to be able to sell. Budtenders are sales-people first, marijuana enthusiast, second.
With new dispensaries opening up like Starbucks across the country, budtendering has become the most searched-for position in the industry. However, with average wages varying from $12 to $16 an hour, this might be a good entry-level position, but definitely not a life-long career if one intends to get rich off marijuana.
Cannabis brands have a hard time building relationships with their consumers, because many of the traditional channels that brands use to advertise (like radio, TV, Google or Facebook), have strong restrictions against cannabis ads. That’s why cannabis brands need to rely on Brand Ambassadors to serve as the company’s face, becoming a link to customers, clients and business partners. No higher education is compulsory, however, a very extroverted and charismatic personality is required. Experience in digital and off-line communication is a great plus.
Cultivation Director, Grower or Assistant
The cannabis industry can be described as a multi-layered phenomenon involving tech developments, retail markets and medicinal implementations. However, the plant is always at its core. So, until synthetic cannabinoids become a thing (don’t expect it to be soon), Directors of Cultivation will have a job, and a well-paid one at that.
Their role is to ensure that the main product (i.e: the plant), is grown efficiently, in compliance with state regulation, and at its best possible quality, and potency. Directors hire large teams of associates and assistants that play mayor roles throughout cultivation and harvest. A degree in Horticulture is usually required, though not exclusive. However, proper growing experience will be demanded.
One of the most sought-after jobs in cannabis, which is also amongst the lowest-paying ones.
Trimming jobs are great opportunities for those looking for part-time or seasonal work in the cannabis industry, without any high requirements for experience or education. The job is basic, yet not-at-all easy: remove the leaves and branches that surround the buds to turn the raw harvest into a sellable product. Hourly rates go from $11.50 to $14, and require an ability to perform repetitive tasks for long hours without losing focus. A great option for job hunters looking to begin their careers in cannabis.
Cannabis B2B companies need sales associates that can market their products to other businesses: distributors need to sell their service to producers. Producers need to place their products on dispensary shelves. Dispensaries must strike deals with producers to get better prices.
Sales teams go from meeting to meeting developing new business relationships, an making sure the company’s products or services expand and maintain their clientele. Experience in sales is usually demanded and a BA in business administration can open many doors.
Running a dispensary is not the same as managing any ordinary business. Although the basic aspects of retail are still there, dispensaries need to be up to date with local, state and federal regulation to make sure business runs normally, without any of the issues that can arise from a such a highly regulated industry. Dispensary managers need to be able to coordinate and lead large teams of budtenders, keep track of inventory, be informed of the local legal landscape and make sure their shop reaches its sales objectives. Experience in retail and management is usually a must, followed by a strong knowledge of cannabis products.
While more and more people are trying out the benefits of cannabis, some still find themselves embarrassed by going into dispensaries because of the ongoing stigma that persists around the plant. Others, specially medical marijuana patients, may be too impaired to reach a dispensary by themselves. Lastly, some people simply prefer to have their products delivered at home.
Cannabis delivery drivers are the faces of dispensaries outside the shop. They need to know the products and be able to make recommendations, just like budtenders do. Owning a vehicle is an advantage to land this type of job, and experience in delivery will always be welcomed.
Packer and Warehouse Picker
With cannabis retail skyrocketing, brands are constantly finding new and appealing ways to present their products. Packers are a crucial part of the cannabis supply chain, working at warehouses and distributing plants, to make sure the final product is properly presented. Sometimes also serving as Pickers, their job can involve getting shipping orders ready, receiving and organizing stock, tracking orders and keeping inventory. Experience in supply chain and logistics is usually valued, though no higher education is a must.