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Times have changed, and new ideas are still transforming the way we think about cannabis and health. A 2020 Gallup poll found that about 68 percent of Americans support legalized marijuana. And in the 2020 elections, people in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota backed that up in the voting box by legalizing cannabis for adults age 21 and over.
2020 also saw medical cannabis programs come to Mississippi and South Dakota, bringing the total number of medical marijuana states in the US to 35, plus Guam, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. And during the coronavirus crisis, many states classified cannabis dispensaries as essential services, allowing them to stay open in some way even during lockdowns.
This has also meant an explosion of cannabis jobs and cannabis job postings. Like any other new and rapidly growing industry, it’s hard to find talent at a breakneck pace, especially when you’re still struggling for acceptance. That’s right—cannabis businesses are often really looking for great people.
How Many Cannabis Jobs Are There?
How many jobs are there in America’s legal marijuana industry?
Leafly issued its 2021 Leafly Jobs Report in February 2021. That report, created in partnership with Whitney Economics, found that as of January 2021, legal cannabis supported 321,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs in the US. That’s everyone from the people growing the plants to the people selling them in dispensaries and people in ancillary jobs such as business roles.
2020’s cannabis job growth doubled that of 2019. In 2019, 33,700 new cannabis industry jobs brought the US total cannabis jobs to 243,700. But by January 2021, we were up to 321,000, having added 77,300 jobs—in spite of economic recession and rising unemployment in the midst of a global pandemic. Put another way, according to Leafly, in the worst year for American economic growth since World War II, the cannabis industry saw an insane 32 percent year-over-year job growth.
Were we all just using cannabis during a bad year—and when we were home and we could? In other words, is this spike in cannabis jobs real?
It seems like it is. The moves toward legalization, for example, seem to indicate that rising cannabis use does have to do with legalization.
Once governors in many states classified cannabis as an essential good or service, stores and dispensaries began to offer COVID-safe options such as delivery, online ordering, and curbside pickup for customers. These convenient options are not likely to disappear, even if the virus does.
The Ultimate Guide to Cannabis Jobs
If you have been thinking about working in the cannabis industry, you’re in the right place. Whether it’s just an idea for now or cannabis has always been your dream job, it’s a smart career move to find your place in cannabis.
There are tons of cannabis jobs out there, though, so figuring out where your skill set fits into the cannabis industry can be a challenge. That’s why the Cannabis Stack team created this ultimate guide to cannabis industry jobs.
Whether you’re just curious about the kinds of cannabis jobs that are out there or you’re absolutely passionate about cannabis and CBD as a career and lifestyle, use this guide to help determine which role inside the cannabis industry might be perfect for you. This is an overview of the space and the most common and popular jobs in it—not a comprehensive list! But hopefully it will help you get a sense of what’s out there, and some of the cannabis jobs you will find on this site.
Cannabis jobs are in a few different areas:
- Cannabis Cultivation (plant-touching jobs related to growing cannabis)
- Lab and Extraction (jobs that turn plant matter into concentrate products and test raw materials for quality)
- Cannabis Manufacturing (jobs that create final products and prepare them for customer use)
- Retail (cannabis sales jobs that connect the public with the product)
Cannabis Cultivation Jobs
The entire cannabis industry starts with a seed (or a clone). Growing cannabis plants doesn’t just happen out in the country somewhere; cannabis farmers operate in all locations, urban and rural.
But cannabis plants aren’t always easy to grow, and many demand serious attention and labor. People with skill and talent cultivate and nurture cannabis until it’s actually in usable, mature form.
If you know how to grow crops or plants, or you feel called to learn to grow cannabis, the cannabis cultivation sector may be the place you feel right at home. Here are a few of the more common cannabis cultivation jobs.
If you aren’t sure how to break into cannabis growing, the trimmer job might be a good choice. The most common entry-level cannabis growing position, the role of trimmer is among the most popular cannabis jobs in legal and medical states like Washington, Oregon, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Colorado.
Trimmers carefully remove the cannabis buds from harvested plants, meticulously pruning the leaves for both maximum harvest and aesthetic appeal. They then get the buds ready for sale by drying and curing them. A skilled trimmer is precise but quick. To pursue a job as a trimmer, you should enjoy gardening.
Healthy, thriving cannabis plants are at the heart of a successful cannabis business, not to mention the entire industry. It takes experience and skill to bring cannabis, especially multiple varieties of the plant in various conditions, to harvest.
A master grower manages all grow operations to ensure that the cannabis is safe, including germination, planting, nutrients, and pest control. The master grower also communicates with compliance inspectors and law enforcement to ensure the grow operations meet appropriate standards and run smoothly.
If you have experience as a cannabis cultivator or a background in botany or horticulture, plus the management experience to run a grow, the master grower role is a great choice. Today, most master growers also hold advanced degrees in a related area.
What’s the difference between a master grower and a cultivation director? In many businesses, there isn’t much difference, but the main distinction is the need to manage multiple grows and set standards.
A cultivation director ensures that the business produces only premium cannabis that complies with all applicable regulations and laws. They may oversee more than one master grower, each running a large-scale grow. They also develop standard operating procedures, manage the team, plan pest control, and create harvesting schedules.
A cultivation director and a master grower both need growing skill and experience. But the cultivation director is also likely to benefit from skills with personnel and management, and experience with regulations and in a commercial greenhouse environment.
Lab and Extraction Jobs
Once the trimmer removes the flower that gets sold directly to customers, the team sorts out the smalls and trim for the extraction lab. They send samples for testing.
The team from the state-licensed cannabis laboratory analyzes the cannabis for microbes, pesticides, solvents, and other potentially harmful substances before it can be made into an extract or sold as flower. The extraction team can get the best of the rest from the cannabis plant, including extracts like tinctures and oils.
Extraction jobs are perfect for people with a background in chemistry and other scientific experience. Lab jobs we don’t describe here include those in lab management and product development.
Processors create cannabis concentrates such as wax and cannabis oil by extracting resin from the plant. To do this, they use either physical methods like pressure or agitation, or more often chemical means such as CO2 or butane.
You’ll need incredible attention to detail and to have chemistry education and skill to create safe concentrates, which include dabs and hash oils. You’ll also need to understand the relevant regulations and the tests your products will need to pass to become a concentrates processor.
Cannabis Lab Technician
A lab technician or lab tech assists microbiologists, lead chemists, and other lab scientists. Cannabis lab techs are trained on the lab’s operating procedures, processes, and goals, and implement them under general supervision. Daily tasks include intaking and testing samples, handling and maintaining laboratory equipment, and managing waste disposal.
Ideally, a lab technician will have a degree in a related field such as biological sciences, but these jobs also include training for those with less field experience.
The cannabis quality manager or QM oversees product testing in the lab, ensuring the facility follows approved cannabis processing and testing methods, and investigating all quality complaints concerning the product. The QM must immediately identify and correct process errors if quality is compromised. They must also ensure the cannabis is safe for use by developing preventative measures.
For this role, you will need appropriate degrees and experience, including knowledge of good manufacturing practices (GMP) and good laboratory practices (GLP).
Cannabis Lab Director
The cannabis lab director performs critical chemical analyses, runs quality control (QC) and quality assurance (QA) procedures, ensures the facility adheres to regulatory compliance procedures, and manages lab staff. Lab directors maintain and operate standard lab equipment, extraction machines, and vacuum ovens.
If you have years of lab experience, expertise in cannabis extraction techniques, and proven management skills, this vital cannabis role is one of the most important marijuana jobs on the market.
Cannabis Manufacturing Jobs
In the cannabis manufacturing part of the cannabis industry, teams create and package cannabis and CBD products for sale. Many different cannabis products are prepared for dispensaries and retail stores internationally, including CBD tinctures, gummies and other cannabis edibles, and vapes. Rules and regulations change frequently, and staying on top of them plus having experience in any kind of manufacturing can help nab a job working in a cannabis manufacturing facility.
Just like it sounds, a packager carefully, uniformly, and neatly places cannabis or cannabis-infused products into bags, containers, pre-rolled joints, and other packaging. This is typically an entry-level, hourly position—the manufacturing equivalent to the role of the trimmer. Starting as a packager is a solid way to work yourself into other manufacturing-oriented jobs in the cannabis industry.
If you’re a skilled cook, chef, or baker, being an edibles chef might be your dream career. But it’s not as easy as it sounds; you’ll need serious chops in the kitchen, lots of experience, and a lab technician’s knowledge of how to work with every kind of cannabis, how to infuse it, and how to deliver a precise dose. (This is especially fun in recreational cannabis states, where you can cook for private dinner parties and in many other settings.)
A cannabis facility manager oversees the inventory and product team, ensuring they meet milestones, and stay on task so that dispensary customers and wholesale clients receive products on time. The cannabis facility manager should have a strong background in business or project management. If you excel at managing operations, budgets, projects, and scheduling, a position as a cannabis facility manager might be right for you.
VP of Manufacturing
As VP of Manufacturing for a cannabis business, you’ll quarterback product development, oversee inventory, and see that all projects follow their timelines. The VP of Manufacturing also typically has responsibility for all health and safety regulations for the team and the facility. In some business structures, this role also lends a hand with packaging design, branding, and other high-level marketing tasks.
There are now 35 states where cannabis is legal for either adult-use or medical use. So, naturally, dispensaries are sprouting up all around the globe. If you enjoy helping others find the cannabis products they are looking for, or you’re passionate about marketing strategy and promotion, working in cannabis retail could be your thing. From vapes to edibles, to pre-rolls, and more, you’ll have a hand in connecting consumers to the variety of mind-elevating or pain-relieving cannabis/CBD products out there. Experience in retail or customer service will give you an edge.
Especially now, more and more dispensaries offer delivery services, so there are many opportunities for delivery people and couriers in the cannabis industry. If you can be personable and punctual and have access to a car or bicycle, this potentially part-time and usually entry-level position may be a good chance to get started in the business and earn tips, too. Obviously, if you’re in Los Angeles for example, or a place where there are long distances between stops, a bicycle may not work, so be ready to adjust to your surroundings!
The role of budtender, originally named after the affable bartender who can talk about your issues, should be filled by someone who not only understands retail, but who enjoys people. And even more importantly, this team member needs a thorough knowledge of cannabis and cannabis products, as they will be making recommendations, fielding and answering customer questions, and the number one source of cannabis wellness and THC information at a dispensary each and every day. If you have good customer service or sales experience, a budtender position might be in your future.
The general manager supervises all dispensary activities, while managing the staff, including growers and budtenders. As a cannabis dispensary’s general manager, your ongoing duty will be to analyze the business, develop new marketing strategies, and create plans for action that are effective and efficient. Your team will make or break your results, so your ability to develop, mentor, and coach talent, handle staffing with or without the help of recruiters, and your leadership skills are critical to the general manager position.
VP of Retail
Development of all short and long-term strategic goals for a retail organization goes to the VP of retail. This means the duties of the VP of retail include creating annual sales plans, overseeing inventory and the budget, managing profit and loss, ensuring compliance, and handling any expansions. A VP of cannabis retail should have experience in both management and sales, and an analytical, data-oriented work style.
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