Is the Weed Industry for Me?

David Bernstein of suggests asking yourself the following questions before deciding to take the plunge—and making sure you have the answers, especially before you go for a job interview.

What’s your interest level?

Are you passionate about cannabis and know everything there is to know about the industry and the plant? Or are you just starting out and willing to learn? Whatever your interest level, employers will be impressed if you’ve done your homework. It also helps if you don’t care about the stigma that still surrounds cannabis in many places. Being a cannabis user isn’t necessarily required for getting a job in the industry; in fact, depending on the position’s responsibilities, a non-user might even have an advantage in getting hired. Either way, employers will be more likely to hire you if you show you understand that they’re trying to grow and run a business just like any other employer in any other industry. Remember, your number-one job is to be a valued, responsible and reliable member of this person’s staff.

What do you bring to the table?

If you have marketable skills, chances are you can apply them to a job in the cannabis industry. Whether your expertise is in office management, administration, horticulture or biology, your skillset and past experience will be selling points to a prospective cannabusiness employer.

At the same time, don’t be afraid to step outside your basic skills. For example, if you have experience in any area related to agriculture or landscaping, you could fit in on the production side of a cannabis grow. If you’re involved with construction, you can lend your expertise to building an indoor facility. The same goes for office management, human resources or information technology. These are areas that form the backbone of many businesses, including cannabis-related ones.

How committed are you?

Any good candidate will take the time to understand the industry. Even more important is to understand the laws of the state that your potential employer operates in. If you present yourself with a full and clear understanding of both the upside and the challenges of operating a cannabusiness, employers will see how dedicated you are to the professional, career-development side of your goals.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

This is a typical interview question in many industries. For cannabis, it’s particularly important. Remember, the majority of businesses in this industry have been around for only a short time. This is a crucial stage for many cannabis companies, as the next few years will determine their staying power as established businesses. Most employers don’t want to deal with high employee turnover, and the hiring costs and difficulties in qualifying new workers can be even more time-consuming and expensive for cannabusinesses.

Are you willing to weather the peaks and valleys, or periods in which the business takes three steps forward and two steps back?

If you’re seriously looking for a career in the cannabis industry, you’re likely not going to see a big financial payday in the short term. Are you willing to take a lower-level (and lower-paying) job to gain the necessary experience and get your foot in the door? Employers will know if you’re overqualified for a position very quickly and may not have the resources to offer a high-compensation package right off the bat. “Sweat equity” is a term commonly used in many startup businesses; employers look for potential workers who can see the big picture long-term, not an immediate payday upfront.

That’s why it’s important to set realistic expectations about what kind of compensation you’re looking for before you start applying for jobs in the industry. Remember, due to the sensitive nature of working with cannabis (both legally and, in some places, socially), employers want staffers who will be in place for many years and are willing to build their career with that business. They’re looking for people who want to go above and beyond, not just the typical 9-to-5 employee.

  1. I answered “hopefully still alive” once to the where do you see yourself in 5 years question. They didn’t get the joke.

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