Working in the medical marijuana industry may look like a great way to mix the concepts of “fun” and “profit”. And cannabis industry jobs certainly can be! But behind the appealing veil of dense smoke and cash money lurks a whole lot of work, effort, knowledge and sometimes even just flat-out luck.
Getting a job in the medical marijuana industry takes more than just a love of cannabis. And although the legal cannabis field is growing at greatly accelerated rates (over 100% job growth rate for positions in the cannabis industry in the United States from 2016-2020). There being an abundance of available positions doesn’t automatically mean cannabis industry jobs are easy to snag for one’s self.
As you might guess competition in this field is high, and standing out in a sea of equally eager applicants can be difficult. Whether you’re new to the cannabis industry, or a seasoned pro looking to switch fields we can help. Keep reading for our expert tips and insider information on how to get your foot in the door of the swiftly growing, highly profitable medical cannabis industry.
What Job Positions Are Available in Medical Marijuana?
One of the great things about seeking employment in the cannabis industry is the sheer diversity of available opportunities. Work can be found in a wide variety of places. With many jobs completely disconnected from the growing/processing/handling end of the business. If you’re struggling to figure out which end of the industry could be right for you. Here’s our overview of potential positions:
Growing & Harvesting
Becoming a Master Grower of marijuana takes knowledge, experience, skill, patience, and a very green (pun only mildly intended) thumb. Cannabis industry jobs involving growing is essentially the first step in the marijuana supply chain. And to provide a competitive product you’ll need more than just seeds and healthy dirt. You’ll need to be able to identify your strains, their effects, their percentage of CBD and/or THC content and other important parts of their chemical makeup as well. This is all without even mentioning the need to learn state and local cannabis regulations, of which there can be quite a few.
How to Become a Master Grower
As we touched on above, becoming a true master grower in the cannabis industry takes a lot of work, skill, experience and knowledge. Our article on how to Become a Master Grower goes into more detail on exactly what the job of raising marijuana crops entails and how profitable it can really be.
Assistant Growers, Harvesters & Trimmers
Assistant growers usually work under the master grower at a farm and handle more of the day-to-day duties –
- And checking plants for wilt or diseases
These jobs are a bit easier to get a foothold in the cannabis industry. Rather than, trying to leap directly into being a master grower but are still competitive and highly sought-after.
Harvesting is on the lower end of the cannabis work-force scale and is often considered an entry-level job. Becoming a harvester can be a great way to learn more about the cannabis industry and methods for growing marijuana while also bringing in a solid income. It depends on the company you work for, but in general, harvesters are expected to pull and trim the flowering buds when ready. And though this can be a physically demanding job, the pay is usually fairly decent (between $30,000 – $35,000 per year). Some companies separate harvesting and trimming into different roles – it really just depends. This is a new cannabis industry, and many companies have their own unique operating procedures.
Of course, there are many other jobs required in running a cannabis business that is not related to the growing or harvesting of the plants. These jobs include:
- Extraction-related positions
- Supply chain roles
- Regulatory compliance
- Quality assurance/control and many more!
Cannabis is a growing industry with lots of room options to explore regardless of your experience or interest.
Dispensaries & Retail Cannabis Sales
Usually, the last stop in the cannabis supply chain is where the product gets sold directly to the customer, typically in a dispensary-style setting. Though this is far from the only way to become involved with the medical marijuana industry. This is usually the first thing people think of when they think of jobs related to cannabis.
There are two sides to every retail outlet, often called the front-end and the back-end (or front of house and back of the house). For most stores, back-end typically includes support staff such as lawyers or CPAs, with the dispensary owner (or owners) at the top. These are the individuals who ultimately run, own, and are responsible for the retail store. Taking on one of these roles – particularly that of the owner – is costly, and labour intensive. But, that doesn’t mean being The Boss can’t come with its rewards.
How to Open a Dispensary
Out of all of the topics we’ve discussed so far, becoming a dispensary owner is easily the one with the most information to cover. If this is something you’re interested in, be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming guide on how to open a dispensary.
Working Front End at a Dispensary
Working front end at a cannabis retail store usually means interacting with customers in some fashion or another. So, this is definitely a job for those who enjoy being sociable. Every cannabis retail company has a need for budtenders and/or cashiers, and potentially delivery personnel as well. One of these entry-level positions is an excellent first step in how to get a job at a dispensary.
Delivery drivers often operate the same for a cannabis dispensary as they would any other delivery job, taking products from the store and delivering it to the consumer. People working in this position will typically have to provide their own transportation, be it motor vehicle or bicycle. And depending on the state/business they work for will likely derive a significant portion of their income from tips.
Budtender and cashier roles often overlap, with the budtender position usually the most visible front-of-house job available at a retail store. People interested in this role would need excellent customer service skills and should be knowledgeable on all of the store’s products as well as its clientele’s typical needs, not to mention needing a solid, up-to-date foundation on cannabis & its uses in general.
How to Become a Budtender
As previously mentioned, working retail is the first thing that comes to most people’s minds when they think of jobs in the cannabis industry, and positions as a budtender are highly sought-after. For more information on how to find your own dream job as a budtender, check out our How to Become a Budtender guide – we cover all the basics you’ll need to know to get an edge on your application.
Advice for Applying to a Cannabis Industry Position
Each position you apply to will have it’s own nuances and needs. But there are a few pointers we can provide that’ll serve you well when applying to a cannabis business of any sort.
1) Make sure you show up presentable and looking professional.
Each location will have its own dress code and appearance guidelines. But as the old saying goes; you never get a second chance to make a first impression. At the very minimum, leave the hoodie at home and ensure you’re well-groomed fresh. It’s always best to be overdressed instead of underdressed.
2) Get familiar with the company, their mission statement, and its product.
Different workplaces have different cultures and focus, such as recreational cannabis vs. medical marijuana. And it’s important to apply at a place that you’re comfortable with. If applying at a retail cannabis venture, being familiar with their product and type of client base before your interview will show your interest, knowledge, and help you leave a good impression.
3) Show up sober.
It’s always smart advice not to smoke up before going in for any job interview. Even if it is for a position that centers around cannabis.
4) Be alert, attentive, and ask smart questions in your interview.
Interviewers like it when you can engage with them rather than sitting there and only responding when you’re being asked a question. Prepare a list of questions in advance of your interview, and focus on the company vs. yourself. For example, ask questions about the best selling products and customer needs instead of how much they pay and what their vacation policy is.
5) Polish up your resume and make sure to list relevant experience and education.
Most retail locations will require a high school diploma as a minimum requirement for employment.
6) Expect background checks.
As of this article’s publishing date, nearly every state requires background checks on prospective marijuana industry employees. Though regulations in your state may vary, expect a felony record to be an automatic bar to employment.
7) Knowledge of federal, state, and local regulations will always be a big plus.
Take the time to understand the law and how it applies to jobs in your area.
Just remember: jobs in the cannabis industry are no different from a job in any other field. So when interviewing for your dream cannabis job, your experience, professionalism and knowledge of the company you’re applying to all go a long way.
Jay-Z announces new line of cannabis products dubbed Monogram
Rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z is launching his own cannabis brand in partnership with Caliva, the California-based weed company that hired the star as its chief brand strategist last year.
Named Monogram, Jay-Z’s line of marijuana products launched its website and social media accounts on Friday.
“Monogram marks a new chapter in cannabis defined by dignity, care and consistency. It is a collective effort to bring you the best, and a humble pursuit to discover what the best truly means,” Monogram’s website highlights.
No further information on the specific products that will be sold under the Monogram brand has been released yet.
However, according to the website, the flower used in Monogram’s products is grown in small batches, with a board of “cannabis experts” tasked with grading and hand-selecting each flower that goes into the line.
The New York rapper joined Caliva in 2019 as a brand strategist, which entailed overseeing the creative direction of the company. Furthermore, Jay was focused on Caliva’s social equity efforts as he aimed to increase economic participation of people disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition in the newly legal industry.
As for when consumers can expect to try Jay-Z new products, a spokesperson told the New York Daily News Monogram still hasn’t set its dispensary release schedule. The line will “definitely be available across all of California,” according to the spokesperson.
In other news, basketball star Shawn Kemp who played for the Seattle SuperSonics is also showing his love of pot. Kemp is set to open Seattle’s first black-owned marijuana dispensary this Friday. The Sonics legend named his dispensary Shawn Kemp’s Cannabis and is hoping to serve as a model for others in the black community who might be interested in foraying into the legal marijuana business in the area.
“I’m looking forward to welcoming Sonics fans on a regular basis, starting with opening day. I hope that Shawn Kemp’s Cannabis will be an inspiration for people to get involved with the legal cannabis industry, especially people of color,” the Reign Man said in a press release.
Analysis: Legal weed in Texas would generate over $500 million in tax revenue per year
Legalizing marijuana in Texas could generate over half a billion dollars in tax revenue per year and create more than 40,000 new jobs, according to the results of a report released by Vicente Sederberg LLP earlier this month.
Legal cannabis sales in Texas would reach about $2.7 billion annually based on the fact that there are more than 1.5 million residents over the age of 21 that consume pot on a monthly basis, the analysis calculated.
The estimated tax revenue was calculated under the assumption Texas would tax marijuana sales at the same rate as Colorado at 20.6%. This would amount to $1.1 billion in taxes per biennium, while Texas could collect an additional $10 million per year through the issuing of marijuana business licenses.
The report notes Colorado has raised nearly $13 million on average per year just from license and application fees. Furthermore, the report indicated that current taxpayer dollars that go towards marijuana arrests and prosecutions amount to $311 million per year – money that Texas would save should it legalize pot.
“States across the country are seeing the benefits of legalizing and regulating cannabis. It is inspiring lawmakers in prohibition states to reexamine the efficacy and costs of their current policies and take a closer look at the alternatives,” said Shawn Hauser, a partner at Vicente Sederberg.
“The goal of this report is to provide a snapshot of the economic benefits Texas would experience if it started treating cannabis more like alcohol for adults 21 years of age and older,” he commented on the new report.
Aside from the tax revenue that legal weed in Texas could generate, the report highlighted marijuana’s job creation potential. An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 new jobs would be available in the newly legal industry, with tens of thousands of additional indirect positions, the report estimated.
Hauser also pointed out the added economic benefits of legalization in Texas given current uncertainties provoked by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Texas is leaving an enormous amount of money on the table by keeping cannabis illegal,” according to him.
Texas was once known for having the strictest drug laws in the U.S., but the state has softened its stance on cannabis in recent years. A very limited medical marijuana program was established in 2015, while, more recently, cannabis possession arrests in the state have been significantly declining after hemp became legal.
Cannabis Businesses Invest in Their Futures with Political Donations
Cannabis companies have been making political donations for years, and in 2020, those donations have continued to grow. In fact, some companies are investing aggressively to shape the future of the cannabis industry either by donating directly to campaigns and politicians or through political action committees (PACs) that support cannabis-friendly candidates and legislation.
So far in 2020, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that the leading cannabis companies, cannabis-related companies, and cannabis trade associations making donations to federal candidates, parties, and outside groups are (in order of 2020 donation amounts to date):
- Canty Ventures
- National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA)
- Have A Heart
- Beyond Broadway LLC
- Sea Hunter Therapeutics
- Cannabis Trade Federation
- Dan Kopp & Co
- Acreage Holdings
Compare that list to the list of large cannabis company donors in 2019, which included Curaleaf, Parallel Brands (formerly Surterra Wellness), Tweed Inc. (part of Canopy Growth Corporation), Canndescent, and Trulieve. Even ancillary cannabis companies like Dama Financial, WeedMaps, and Acreage Holdings donate large sums of money in 2019 according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
State Donations in 2020
There are a number of legalization (adult-use and/or medical use) and decriminalization measures on state ballots in 2020, and cannabis companies, ancillary companies, and professional associations have been actively donating directly to related campaigns and initiatives at the state level.
In Arizona, Harvest is the biggest donor in support of legalization (Prop. 207) followed by Curaleaf, MedMen, Cresco Labs, Copperstate Farms, Arizona Dispensaries Association, Herbal Wellness Center, and Oasis Dispensaries.
Mississippi’s medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot (Initiative 65) has received donations from the CEO of Heritage Properties (George Walker III), Ghost Management Group (which owns Weedmaps), and the owner of ABKO Labs (Robert Lloyde II).
Ghost Management Group and its Weedmaps subsidiary also donated to support Montana’s and New Jersey’s legalization initiatives. In addition, New Jersey’s legalization Question 1 on the November ballot received donations directly from The Scotts Company (the maker of Scotts Miracle Gro), Pashman Stein Walder Hayden (a New Jersey cannabis law firm), and Compassionate Care Research Institute (a New Jersey dispensary).
Keep in mind, these donations don’t include the donations that cannabis companies and ancillary businesses donate to PACs or that they invest in lobbying. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the biggest investments in lobbying from cannabis companies, ancillary companies, and trade associations in 2020 have come from the Cannabis Trade Federation, National Cannabis Roundtable, Canopy Growth Corp, Curaleaf, Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce, Parallel Brands, Cronos Group, Charlotte’s Web, NCIA, Acreage Holdings, Dama Financial, Trulieve, California Cannabis Association, and Oregon Cannabis Association.
Political Donations from Cannabis Interests Are Not New
One of the biggest political donation stories happened in California when cannabis businesses donated aggressively to former Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s campaign to become the state’s governor in the 2018 election. According to the Los Angeles Times, he secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from cannabis cultivators, processors, and retailers.
By May 2018, Newsom had raised nearly $500,000 from cannabis companies, but he wasn’t the only politician in California to receive money from cannabis interests. At the time, the state’s Treasurer, John Chiang, and Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, also secured donations from the cannabis industry
And of course, these donation numbers don’t even include the many donations from PACs that businesses and individuals working in the cannabis industry donate to. Many of these funds go directly to specific candidate’s fundraising efforts. For example, the Coastal Pacific Political Action Committee held a fundraiser in June 2017, and six days later, the PAC donated $50,000 to Newsom’s campaign.
Another noteworthy political donation happened in Florida over the course of multiple years. The Miami Herald reported that Surterra donated $1.1 million to Florida political candidates and committees between the summer of 2016 and March 2018. Trulieve donated $564,000 during the same period, and Curaleaf donated $469,000.
In Illinois, the doors for cannabis companies to make political donations opened in March 2017 when a federal judge ruled an Illinois provision that did not allow marijuana companies to make campaign contributions in the state was unconstitutional.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the provision prevented contributions to political committees that were established for the purpose of promoting candidates for public office. Since that decision was made, cannabis companies like PharmaCann and Cresco Labs have donated significant amounts to the state’s political candidates and committees.
Business and individual donations to marijuana-friendly political candidates have also become standard in Nevada and Colorado. During the 2016 elections, dozens of marijuana cultivators, processors, and dispensaries donated $75,000 to Nevada legislators according to the Nevada Independent.
Looking back further in history, Florida Senator Rob Bradley received his first donation from a cannabis company in 2015 when Costa Farms donated $10,000 to his political committee.
Similarly, cannabis businesses have actively contributed to Colorado political campaigns for years, and many of those businesses have been holding political fundraisers to support their preferred candidates. PBS reported back in 2014 that Colorado’s congressional delegation had received $20,000 during the first nine months of 2014 from marijuana businesses. Also in 2014, a fundraiser to support political candidates that was held by Tripp Keber of Denver, Colorado’s Dixie Elixirs & Edibles generated $40,000 in donations.
What’s Next for Political Campaign Donations from Cannabis Businesses?
As the cannabis industry continues to grow and more states legalize medical and/or recreational cannabis, laws will continue to evolve. Cannabis businesses and ancillary businesses should absolutely be concerned about which politicians are making those laws.
With that said, it’s safe to assume that political donations from the cannabis industry will get larger and more frequent in the coming years. Let’s put the donations from cannabis companies to political campaigns into perspective. During the first half of 2019, the cannabis industry gave more than $200,000 to members of Congress, which was up from $248,504 donated throughout all of 2018. Compare that to the $42 million that pharmaceutical companies donated to political campaigns across the United States in 2018.
With those numbers in mind, it’s guaranteed that political donations from cannabis and cannabis-related companies will continue to grow. Savvy businesses are paying attention and getting involved in an attempt to influence the regulations that could make or break their companies’ futures.
Originally published 8/24/17. Updated 10/23/20.
Susan Gunelius, Director of Email Marketing Strategy for Cannabiz Media, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her nearly 30-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. She has been working with clients in the cannabis industry since 2015. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business, Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.
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