If you had walked into your high school career day thirty years ago and asked what kind of jobs were available for weed lovers, you would have been laughed out of the room. While there have always been jobs for people who love working with (and using) cannabis products, those positions have been highly secretive and hard to find until relatively recently. One of those shady, “I know a guy who knows a guy” *eyebrow waggle* kind of things.
However, the last ten years have changed the game for canna-seurs, and cannabis growing, processing, and promoting is big business in the United States. By some estimates, the cannabis industry is worth over 60 billion dollars, with a steady upward projectory, so there’s no better time than the present to jump into this field.
So where do you start, and is it possible to make a career out of cannabis?
Both are good questions, and to answer them, you need to ask yourself three personal questions about your skills and goals.
1. What is my experience?
This is a huge question that you need to answer honestly before you ever start looking for a job. “Well, I’ve smoked a lot of weed…” isn’t a good enough answer to get you a job working for a high-end grower or dispensary. That is, unless you’re applying for an entry-level position as a bud trimmer. Bud trimmers spend most of their time working with and cultivating the plant, so it’s a good way to learn about the whole process from the start. That said, it’s often very physical work that is demanding without the benefit of great pay.
If you have experience working in retail, you might be able to get a job as a budtender, or someone who sells cannabis to the public. Budtenders have to have a broad knowledge of strains and products, but perhaps more importantly, they need to know how to work with people. Budtenders stand on the front lines selling cannabis and cannabis products like 4-piece grinders, portable vaporizers, and stash boxes to medical and recreational users, so knowing all things cannabis and people-related is a must.
Managerial experience can also land you a good job in the cannabis industry. Knowing how to juggle people, products, and performance are valuable skills to helping a cannabis company succeed. Having management experience and a thorough knowledge of cannabis strains and products under your belt is an excellent way to stand out in an interview.
2. What education do I have or need?
Contrary to some people’s belief, being successful in the cannabis industry often requires a level of education beyond personal experience. People wanting to hire gardeners will be looking for classes in horticulture and a vast knowledge of growing technologies. Employers who need chefs to make edibles will be looking for education and experience working with food products and quality control standards. Similarly, product development and extraction might involve a degree in chemistry or bioengineering. Even working as a security guard will require you to have certain licensures and certifications.
These days, marketing is a massive part of a cannabis company’s success. Having a degree in communications, marketing, graphic design, or business can give you a significant leg-up on some of the other applicants. If you want to start your own company, a thorough knowledge of cannabis products is one thing, but having a degree in business, knowledge of local, state, and federal laws, and a novel product or idea will get you significantly further.
3. What is my end goal?
You might find that your goals for working in the cannabis industry shift over time, but it’s good to think about where you want to end up before you even start. If you want to develop a working knowledge of the product, you might begin with ground-level work out in the fields or greenhouse and go up from there. If you enjoy creating things, looking into marketing or product development might be the best place for you to start. If your goal is to make a lot of money, and you don’t mind grinding it out for a while, creating your own company could work for you. With every job, there is a level of grit and determination needed in order to be successful, but your end goal will determine the paths you take to get there.
The cannabis industry is growing like never before, with celebrities like Mike Tyson, Snoop Dogg, Gwyneth Paltrow, Martha Stewart, and Willie Nelson actively launching and promoting cannabis products. Because of its “newness” as an industry, there are almost limitless opportunities for growth and improvement, so if you have an idea and some great work ethic, you have a real shot of making it in the world of weed.