Though medical marijuana is now legal in 37 states, and 18 states and Washington DC have legalized recreational marijuana for all adults, the substance is still prohibited on the federal level.
Mario Porter, the co-owner of a Michigan-based dispensary, Hempire Collective, told The Washington Post he was able to expand his dispensary staff in 2021. He received hundreds of applications, many of which came from retail workers who left their jobs during the pandemic.
Zvokel left his job as a Walgreens pharmacist, which he held for over twenty years, according to the Post, taking on a job at a dispensary where his pay is 5% lower, but hours and work expectations are more manageable. Between administering dozens of coronavirus vaccines daily, the pressures of meeting high sales and prescription goals, and the lack of overtime pay or raises, Zvokel felt inclined to quit.
But as the industry’s workforce grows, cannabis worker’s rights groups have pushed to establish firm guardrails to avoid worker’s issues prevalent in industries like retail.
The cannabis industry has become a place of refuge for frustrated and under-appreciated retail workers who left their jobs, the Washington Post reported. Despite unemployment and a temporary economic recession in 2020 fueled by the pandemic, resulting in one of the worst years for US economic growth in 80 years, employment in the industry grew by 32%. The industry added over 77,000 jobs across the sector, according to a 2021 Leafly Jobs report. There are now 321,000 American working in the legal cannabis industry, more than those who are EMTs and paramedics, aircraft pilots, or electrical engineers, the report said.
Similar stresses are echoed throughout different industries, like retail, food service, and healthcare — fueling the Great Resignation, where US workers are quitting their jobs in droves for better pay, work-life balance, and feeling valued at work. Almost 70% of workers in the US considered changing their careers for more job flexibility, even at the expense of lower pay. Some underqualified workers are outright “ghosting” their employers without notice, leading to a sharp decline in worker retention, especially in the restaurant industry.
Like jobs in the retail sector , most entry-level jobs in the cannabis industry are minimum wage, but there are more opportunities to move up quickly, the Post reported. Lucrative managerial and executive jobs in the industry can rake in 6-figure salaries.
“Without proper structures and safeguards in place at the outset, cannabis could end up looking like many other U.S. industries,” according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute. These industries are dominated by “strictly profit-maximizing firms” that treat find ways to keep wages low and undermine worker power, the report continued.
As more Americans choose to leave their current jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the question remains: where are they going? One answer is the booming legal marijuana industry.
A "budtender" works at a dispensary to answer customer questions, provide the correct information, and generally be the customer's go-to resource for making purchases. (Think of a sommelier, but for legal weed instead of wine.) Accordingly, budtenders must be personable and have exceptional customer service skills while also possessing experience in sales and customer relations.
With recreational and medicinal marijuana available in multiple different forms, including baked goods, candy, and tea, a variety of jobs have emerged. Edible chefs, for example, are directly responsible for creating recipes and producing goods. There are a variety of other positions in the edibles industry, too, from working on an assembly line to labeling and packaging.
Cashiers or front-end sales associates are needed in dispensaries and stores to greet customers, answer their questions, and ring up sales. Though this is generally an entry-level position, you'll need to have great customer service skills and a familiarity with the products you'll be selling.
Ready to take your skills to a growing field? There’s almost certainly a marijuana job out there for you. Some are universal to many industries, e.g., delivery person or store manager, while others are unique to this emerging segment.
What kind of skills do you already have? What's your educational background? Do you want to continue using your existing expertise, or do you want to do something completely different? Decide up front what kind of job you'd like to have in the cannabis industry.
Simply put, when it comes to the legal cannabis industry, jobs are available for many different kinds of workers, professionals, and tradespeople. Some people even choose the path of entrepreneurship by starting their own marijuana-related companies (an option that comes with a lot of risk but also a lot of financial rewards if they succeed).
Staffing is a major aspect of running any kind of business. But for cannabis companies, finding and retaining great employees is an especially important endeavor. After all, in this young industry, many workers begin at one company and move quickly to a different company in order to take advantage of better opportunities or try different roles. Pay, benefits, and workplace culture are all elements that need to be smartly overseen by specialists in human resources.
People who've had culinary arts training can pursue this avenue of marijuana employment. Companies that produce edible cannabis products need skilled chefs and pastry artists to develop, create, and help oversee the production of various food items. Marijuana or marijuana extracts can be infused into candies, chocolates, baked treats, soda, coffee, tea, and all kinds of other edible products at very precise doses.
18. Security Guard: $21K to $50K+
Every company website needs engaging copy. And many cannabis producers, dispensaries, and edibles manufacturers like to promote their brands through creatively written content on their own blogs. There are also many marijuana-themed magazines and online publications that you can pitch story ideas to.
Starting and operating a legitimate cannabis company requires overcoming a lot of legal hurdles and filing a lot of complex paperwork. So in addition to lawyers, paralegal professionals help ease that burden.
When you write your résumé and cover letters, always try to use the same type of verbiage that the companies you're applying to use. Avoid using slang terms. Always use proper grammar. And always proofread everything at least twice before submitting it. Focus on describing how your skills will help the company, not on how much experience you have with getting stoned from pot.
3. Marijuana Tester or Quality-Control Inspector: $50K to $100K+
A lot of marijuana companies make use of advanced information technologies in order to run their operations as efficiently as possible. From sales-tracking software to sophisticated systems for growing facilities, technology is often what helps companies remain compliant with government laws and regulations. IT managers oversee the procurement, implementation, and maintenance of that technology.
This is how you can gain a competitive edge in the cannabis job market. The more you know about the current laws, regulations, and challenges of the marijuana industry in your state, the more appealing you will be to potential employers. After all, marijuana companies need to stay super-vigilant about complying with the law if they want their businesses to succeed and grow. And, of course, the more you know about cannabis itself, the better you'll be able to communicate with colleagues and customers.