A Leafly survey published in January 2021 found that the cannabis industry supports 321,000 full time jobs across the U.S. That’s an incredibly impactful number – and a promising one, if you’re interested in settings your sights on a career in the cannabis industry.
If you have a passion for cannabis and are among the millions now living in a state where both medical and adult use cannabis are fair game, it may be high time you get to work on something you enjoy. By properly considering your options and some preparation, you can position yourself as one of the hundreds of thousands employed by a cannabis company. Here, learn more about how to get a job in the cannabis industry.
What career options exist in the cannabis industry?
Though it deals with what’s still considered a Schedule 1 substance on the federal level, the cannabis industry is not unlike more mainstream businesses. Like any other business venture, the cannabis industry requires a wide range of skillsets to get the plant from seed to the dispensary shelf. Regardless of whether your experience is in the growth and cultivation side of things, the retail world, or in a more behind the scenes capacity, there are likely to be a bevy of full-time cannabis jobs to be found.
When most people think about jobs in the cannabis industry, this is likely what they’re going to think of first. Plant-touching jobs are the kinds of positions where you will have a direct impact on the cannabis plant and the final products that come out of it, such as working in a dispensary or cultivating cannabis.
Cultivators are just one of the positions that deal with the growth and cultivation of cannabis. Extractors and manufacturers can take green flower and turn it into extracts, tinctures, and edibles, among other products.
There are also plenty of retail opportunities to work directly with the cannabis plant. Dispensaries need retail associates (called “budtenders” by some), shift leaders, and store managers, just like any other retail location. There are also opportunities in cannabis delivery services that pick up orders and bring them to a customer’s home; oftentimes, this is a separate license from a dispensary license.
If plant-touching jobs deal directly with the cannabis plant itself, then ancillary jobs are the positions within the industry that don’t.
Like any other multi-billion dollar industry, cannabis requires all kids of assistance in making sure these ventures succeed. Accountants, lawyers, human resources professionals, recruiters, marketers, security firms, and equipment manufacturers are just a few of the ancillary job types available that service the cannabis industry.
Do I need a degree in cannabis to work in the industry?
While it’s never a bad idea to get a degree in the field you want to pursue, it’s not always a reasonably attainable goal when considering the great financial cost and time commitment involved. Plus, there’s one important factor: Degrees in cannabis simply did not exist up until very recently.
There are many opportunities to obtain certifications from independent institutions or to access education in other ways. Places like Oaksterdam University and Clover Leaf University offer certifications that you can use, while online platforms like Green Flower Media offer advanced video courses, at the end of which you can obtain a certification showing you’ve completed these studies.
Colleges are slowly but surely offering coursework, certifications, and even minors in cannabis studies to keep up with the demand for labor this industry will provide. Major colleges and universities like Thomas Jefferson University, Syracuse University, and Stockton University have begun offering certificates in areas like Social Justice and Cannabis, Cannabis Agriculture and Horticulture, and Cannabis Medicine, to name a few.
That all being said, a degree is certainly not necessary to work in the cannabis industry, but it may be worthwhile if you’d like to brush up on your cannabis knowledge before entering the industry.
Can I leverage my existing experience to work in cannabis?
The cannabis industry is just like any other industry. The cannabis industry needs talent, smarts, and motivation to succeed. If you have the chops and the drive, the cannabis industry welcomes your abilities!
For example, if you cut your teeth as a CPA for small businesses, then you can most likely find a cannabis business that needs the services of a good accountant, especially if you’re fluent in the regulations that affect cannabis business taxation, such as 280E. If you’re already proven as a social media, marketing, or branding professional, then you can absolutely use those same skills to bolster a multi-state operator’s market visibility.
What if my experience is in the “legacy market?”
If your professional experience in the cannabis market stems from when cannabis was still illegal in your state, then you likely already have some of the more ground-level skills that legal cannabis businesses need. For decades, cannabis has only been grown, cultivated, and sold through illegal means, so anyone looking to take their informal training into the new world of legal cannabis is going to both have a leg up and a hurdle to contend with.
One of the biggest factors standing in the way of a legacy to legal transition is the push for social justice reforms and amnesty. The last thing one would want to do is face legal ramifications for choosing to follow the law once legal cannabis is enacted. In some of the more recent legalization efforts in New York and New Jersey, for instance, a great portion of the legislation considered had to do with applicants from communities that were negatively affected by the War on Drugs. The idea, legislators said, was that those people should get a fair shake at entering the industry if the passed measures were truly equity-minded.
How to find a job in the cannabis industry
With the cannabis industry only expected to grow in the coming years, the job market is going to be very worker-friendly for a while. Employers are going to need skilled, enthusiastic employees to keep the multi-billion dollar industry running, so why not make sure you’re among those individuals that got in on the ground floor?
Just as with any other business type, there are numerous ways for you to go about finding a job in the cannabis industry. The following are just some suggestions to consider when you decide that you want to be considered for a position.
- Do your homework before applying. A new job hunt should always begin with some research. Not only should you find out as much as you can about the job opening and the company in question, but you should dig deeper in the cannabis industry. Learn as much as you can about the industry and where the job you’re considering fits in. Take the time to learn the jargon that you’ll likely run into—no one’s going to take a dispensary associate applicant serious if you can’t tell cannabis flower from concentrates or understand the different effect edibles may have on your system.
- Familiarize yourself with the law. Whether medical and/or adult-use cannabis is legal in your state will play a major part in your cannabis industry job hunt. As you consider your options, make sure you learn about your state’s regulations. Understanding the law can ensure you’ll have a long and productive career in the industry.
- Make sure you stand out to hiring managers. This should already be part of your job hunt repertoire, as it’s universal. As more states come online, you’ll soon end up competing against a growing cohort of marijuana business hopefuls. Once that happens, make sure your resume looks sharp, your cover letter hooks the hiring manager, and you dress for success during job interviews.
- Find your niche. There’s so much more to the cannabis industry than the plant. If business-related jobs don’t interest you and you couldn’t grow anything if you tried, then look for other avenues. Who knows? Maybe you can be the next big cannabis influencer online or maybe you’re a people person and you thrive in a retail setting. Some introspection can push you in the right direction.
- Filter job results on major websites by cannabis keywords. Job sites like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and CareerBuilder are used by millions of people every year to find their next job. Each site comes with a robust search function, so with the right keywords like “dispensary,” “cannabis,” and other hot button terms you can find cannabis-related job listings.
- Work with a cannabis industry specific recruitment firm. If you’ve tried on your own to get a cannabis job and find yourself striking out, then a recruitment firm catered to the industry could help you. Companies like TruPath and Viridian Staffing specialize in the industry can have years of experience connecting people with employers.
- Network with employers and industry insiders at trade shows. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to attend an industry event, be sure to introduce yourself to potential employers and other people within the industry. Companies set up booths at cannabis industry trade shows for the purpose of promoting their brand and networking, so take advantage of it.
You can get a job in the cannabis industry!
The job hunting landscape has seen some incredibly drastic shifts in recent months, both in how people seek out their next paycheck and the kind of work people want to do. It’s a worker’s market at the moment, with employers looking to secure skilled employees to fill vacancies, and the cannabis industry is no different. Now is one of the best times for you to follow your dream and make sure you get through the door as early as possible. The cannabis industry is only going to get bigger from here on out, so as long as you can leverage your skills and present yourself appropriately, there’s bound to be a cannabis job for you.