Working in the medical marijuana industry may look like a great way to mix the concepts of “fun” and “profit” (and it 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 these 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 fresh-faced and new to the 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 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. Jobs involving growing are 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 – watering, pruning, and checking plants for wilt or diseases.
These jobs are a bit easier to get a foothold in 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 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 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 industry, and many companies have their own unique operating procedures.
Of course, there are many other jobs required in running a cannabis business that are not related to the growing or harvesting of the plants. These jobs include extraction-related positions, sanitation, security, purchasing, supply chain roles, inventory, regulatory compliance, quality assurance/control and many more! This 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, this 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 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 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 a costly, and labor 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 product 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 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 their product.
Different workplaces have different cultures and focuses, 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 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.