Marijuana legalization has created thousands of new jobs. For the first time in American history, an economy based on growing, selling and using legal marijuana exists. In fact, the industry is developing at such a rapid pace that it’s hard to put a number on just how big it is.
In the first two months after legalization, Colorado made $3.4 million in new tax revenues, with initial projections estimating another $184 million over 18 months. As more states legalize cannabis, we could be looking at a $10 billion industry by 2018. “Over 10,000 marijuana-industry jobs have been created in Colorado alone,” says Dan Kingston, founder of 420Careers.com, a cannabis job board that posts five to 10 new job listings a week.
“And thousands more will be created as more states legalize.” Kingston, who resides in the medical-marijuana-friendly state of Arizona, has seen firsthand the exponential growth of pot-related jobs. “Graduates coming right out of school typically can’t find a job in their field of study, so they’re coming in droves to entry-level jobs in medical marijuana,” he notes.
High Times, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, has been in the business of cannabis from the beginning. Taking advantage of the many relationships we’ve cultivated over the years, we recently sent out our first High Times Cannabusiness Survey to determine the financial temperature of the industry; the results are shared here. And since so many people want to know how to get a job in the cannabis industry, we’ve compiled ideas and advice on ways to get started.
Colorado, California, Washington and Arizona are currently the easiest states to find employment in. And as more states approve medical marijuana or move toward legalization, more opportunities will be created. Here’s our baker’s dozen of top pot jobs:
Someone has to manicure that lovely, sticky weed into the beautiful nugs you purchase at the dispensary, so why not try your hand at it? This entry-level position isn’t glamorous, but it is essential to every large-scale grow operation. Teams of trimmers work their way through pounds of bud and are paid hourly, or by the weight of their finished product. Whether you’re a full-time employee or freelancer, trimming bud is an excellent way to learn the ins and outs of the trade. Sammy Saltzman, who has risen through the ranks of Denver’s dis- pensaries, recommends Hemp Temps, which staffs cannabis companies. “Hemp Temps will schedule you at a warehouse, or you’ll trim for the dispensary they assign you to,” Saltzman says. “If you’re looking for full-time work, you can network at your temp job with the hopes of maybe one day getting hired by a dispensary that likes you and your work ethic.” hemptemps.com
This dispensary or co-op employee works behind the counter, listening to customers, and recommending strains to match their preferences. Good budtenders are patient, and develop a rapport with their clientele. Handling and dispensing weed doesn’t have to be done by an expert, but you do need a state license; in Colorado, budtending positions are fairly easy to come by, but getting a license is not. The state’s Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division application process is backlogged. Applicants are photographed, fingerprinted, and pay a $75 fee. Oh, and you have to pass a background check too.
Becoming a marijuana grower is one of the most rewarding — and confusing — paths one can take in the legal marijuana industry. Laws differ from state to state, and in California, from county to county and sometimes even city to city. Under California law, you’re only allowed to grow your allotted amount as a care- giver or as part of a collective. California cannabusiness consultant Liana Held suggests anyone interested in growing, “speak with a lawyer and set up a not- for-profit mutual benefit corporation. You can grow six mature, 12 immature and possess eight dried ounces for each person in your collective. Once they are supplied, you can sell the overage to a dispensary.” As far as dispensaries go, it’s a buyer’s market, and it’s likely you will walk away disappointed at the amount you were paid for your “legal” bud.
Then there’s Washington, which voted to legalize recreational marijuana. There was a brief window to submit license applications to become a producer, packager or retailer in the industry. The state received over 2600 applications, and has thus far approved only 70. There is going to be a great need for experienced cultivators as more are approved. A grower looking for work can go to the Washington State Liquor Control Board website and search public records to see the name, addresses and approval status of each company.
Since medical marijuana businesses are vertically integrated in Colorado, Ryan Cook, general manager of The Clinic, recommends growers who have obtained an occupational license to send their resumes directly to medical and retail marijuana centers to get started. canorml.org; liq.wa.gov; colorado.gov
With medical marijuana legal in 22 states and the District of Columbia, becoming a caregiver may have crossed your mind — especially if you have a genuine interest in helping patients who can benefit from cannabis’s medicinal qualities. Though the definition varies from state to state — and not every state allows for caregiving — a caregiver is someone who can grow, possess and provide medical cannabis for a registered patient or patients. If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a licensed caregiver, visit your state’s government homepage or go to: marijuana-caregiver.com
5. Product Manufacturer
Among stoners, there’s no shortage of ideas — all it takes is one good hit and the creative juices start flowing! So take that great idea for a pot product and turn it into profit. To make your dream a reality, first figure out if there’s an actual need for your product. Poll your friends, get feedback, and fine-tune your inspiration. Before you apply for a patent, you’ll need to have a finished product — that means building and testing your invention. Then you’ll need to file an application with the US Patent Office. When it comes to retail, the High Times Cannabis Cup is a great place to start turning your idea into cash.
6. Edibles Chef/Cook
Do you love to bake? Why not apply your culinary skills to the cannabis industry? Personnel with a kitchen background are in demand; many patients and consumers prefer to eat cannabis rather than smoke it. CNN Money recently profiled Joe Hodas, Dixie Elixir’s chief market- ing officer, who said: “As demand for the product grows and stigma falls, I see the [edibles] industry as a tremendous potential creator of jobs.” Dixie Elixir is poised to expand operations into Arizona this year. In Colorado, manufacturers of edible medical-marijuana-infused products must have a food-handling certificate and complete a basic training course. Regulations vary from state to state but to work for any Colorado cannabis company, employees must also have a MMED occupational license.
One entry-level cannabis-industry position that’s in demand is as petitioner. Full- time positions aren’t numerous, but there are plenty of projects that need signatures gathered to gain ballot access for pro-pot initiatives. Whether you’re looking to get involved at the local, state or federal level, Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, says that many cannabis policy reform groups seek public participation. He recommends norml.org for legalization, votehemp.com for hemp and safeaccessnow.org for medical cannabis. With more than 150 state and local chapters, NORML is the “backbone of the cannabis law reform movement,” says St. Pierre.
Since Washington legalized recreational cannabis use, the Seattle law firm of Harris & Moure has been inundated with new clients. Harris & Moure lists its services under the Canna Law Group and specializes in cannabis-related regulatory compliance, applications, taxes and insuring businesses; it has also branched out to include trademark and copyright protection. Though other cannabis-related legal firms are rare, Allen St. Pierre says the SF law group Pier Five Law does great criminal and appellate work — and he speaks highly of the firm of Evans & Cutler in Massachusetts. For those fresh out of law school, St. Pierre recommends branching out into cannabis law reform by joining NORML’s Legal Committee; attending NORML’s annual legal seminars; and volunteering with a NORML chapter to help challenge cannabis prohibition laws and draft reform legislation. cannalawgroup.com
If you’re reading this article and thinking, “Hey, I could’ve written this,” chances are … you’re probably right! Websites, blogs, and news organizations are all covering the cannabis industry and its ever-changing landscape. Ricardo Baca was the Denver Post’s music and entertainment editor for 12-plus years before he was selected as the newspaper’s first marijuana editor. If you have an idea for a story or think marijuana is your beat, pitch your local news editor, or create a blog. Use your posts as a portfolio to showcase your beautiful, flower-y prose. And if you think you’ve got what it takes to write for High Times, email us at: email@example.com.
Every cannabusiness needs a professional who can keep accurate books. From loans to private equity, cash management, payment processing and handling taxes, accountants who understand the industry will increasingly be in demand. Seminars and events tailored to marijuana financials, such as the CannaBusiness Money Show, are offered through sites like Marijuana Business Daily. mmjbusinessdaily.com/money
With more than 500 medical and retail dispensaries in Colorado, security is a major concern for cannabusiness owners — especially when they’re dealing in cash-only sales and a product that is considered illegal by the federal government. Kyndall Cowan of Canna Security America says that because of high demand, CSA now offers armed guards and vehicles with bulletproof windows. “Getting the product from the grow to the dispensary is a huge safety concern,” she says. Dispensaries can also hire security staffed by former military or law-enforcement officials (which bodes well for veterans looking to get into cannabis-related business). Video surveillance is also required by law, and must be installed and operated in any area that contains marijuana (cashiers’ spaces, safes, parking lots, growrooms, etc.), so the time is ripe to learn how to install and maintain surveillance units.
12. IT/Computer Programmer
Know a thing or two about ones and zeros? Take your code-writing skills to cannabusiness. It’s standard operating procedure for any successful business to maintain a website with up-to-date information. Colorado’s demanding seed-to-sale laws require every step of cultivation to be tracked — and software like MJ Freeway has helped revolutionize and streamline data. But the industry needs IT professionals to make it all work. The cannabis-specific job board WeedHire regularly lists open positions for e-commerce managers, tech bloggers and programmers, so be sure to check frequently for new posts, or set up a job alert to notify you. weedhire.com
If you know how to set up a growroom, why not help others get started? Maybe you’re really good at managing an office, or marketing a product. Whatever it is that you do like a pro, there may be a cannabis-industry consultant position for you.
Kenny Morrow of Trichome Technologies is a grower with 30 years of experience in large-scale cultivation. We asked him how a consultant might get a foot in the door. “The first thing you need is a background in the field. You need a solid resume, great references and verifiable real-life experience. Then you need to find a client. I suggest you go to cannabis conferences and trade shows, like the various High Times Cannabis Cups, or the National Cannabis Industry Association’s Cannabis Business Summit. Oaksterdam University is a good place to get experience and to network and they have traveling conferences throughout the country. The most important thing is hit the bricks and advertise your services.” cannabiscup.com; thecannabisindustry .org; oaksterdamuniversity.com