With broad medical and/or recreational cannabis laws in place in 33 states plus Washington D.C., and CBD-only regulations established in several more, there has never been a greater opportunity than now to seek and find employment working with weed… legally!
If you’ve been paying attention to current industry headlines, however, your confidence may be wavering a bit as prominent companies like Weedmaps, Eaze, Pax Labs and others have recently announced fairly substantial layoffs numbering in the dozens to hundreds of employees. These reports, along with the household knowledge that many legal cannabis markets are being crushed under the weight of their own regulations absolutely should be a cause for concern, but they are certainly not unique to the cannabis industry and that volatility isn’t going away anytime soon.
Oh… hey… you didn’t stop reading yet? Ok, brave soul, well then we happen to think that there are still plenty of financially and emotionally fulfilling opportunities to be had on the legal side of cannabis all across the country and we’ve got a few tips for those of you ready and willing to ride out the early turbulence that can be expected in any new marketplace.
A NEW TRAP
Oh, you used to move mad bags back in your hometown? You blasted wax and have some secret SOP? You brokered pounds to custies from out of state? None of that means shit in the new trap – the 9 to 5 rat trap that most of America is stuck in.
The reality of regulated cannabis is that, for most employees, it’s just a job. There is no glory or mystique or adrenaline involved once it’s legal. Whether you are tending to a massive scale warehouse grow, budtending at a high-end dispensary, or any of the hundreds of other positions created by this plant, there are a few essential traits that will typically make or break a person’s cannabis career.
Another reality of regulated cannabis is that adults in legal weed markets are becoming more and more open about their personal use. This has led to a rapid erosion of the decades-old and unfair stigma that “potheads” are lazy as now critics could see that their neighbor with the perfectly landscaped yard consumes cannabis, the musclebound college kid always jogging around the block consumes cannabis, along with some of the smartest, strongest, funniest, and most caring people within their social sphere.
So now we have to prove it.
Whether you personally use cannabis or not is not a prerequisite for working in the industry, but you should be aware that you will be lumped by some folks in with the tattered remains of the negative social stigma still clinging to cannabis. The best way to keep that stank off of you is to prove it wrong, day after day, with an unshakable work ethic and a high level of accountability in everything that you do.
By showing up on time, completing assigned tasks efficiently, and emanating good vibes, not only will you be fortifying your own job security, but you’ll be helping to finally bury the false narrative about cannabis consumers dodging decent jobs.
If you think that working with legal weed is going to be some sort of showering of free samples, constant “safety breaks”, and rules-free workplaces, prepare for the business-grade buzzkill.
Of course, standards vary from company to company, but for the most part, legal cannabis companies these days are run not unlike any boring strip mall franchise you can picture. It’s a rarity to score a job where smelling like weed won’t still be a problem any more than smelling like booze would. Is it fair? Maybe not. Get back to work.
Most cannabis companies are struggling these days and there is little focus on anything but the bottom line as investment capital wears thin and promises to repay loom near. What this means for entry to mid-level employees is heightened scrutiny from bosses or management. It means lower starting wages and less benefits than desired or deserved. It means uncertainty and an unsettling lack of job security. But guess what? That’s how it is in every industry! As long as you realize that working with weed is still work, and you possess the work ethic defined above, you’ll be ahead of the curve.
A job in legal weed is very much like most other jobs but there is one major difference that still separates cannabis from all others and that is the negative stigma that has put people like us at the butt of society’s jokes for far too long while we sat in the shadows afraid to bust back due to draconian laws that would lock us up or take our kids if we revealed our passion for the plant.
Those days are over and boy, we are BUSTIN’ BACK. That is the passion you need for cannabis to make it in the industry because despite the strides we have made in recent years, we have years to go before any of us earn the respect we deserve from society at large. When most people think of the cannabis industry, they picture all of the unrealistic expectations we cautioned you about above. Your knowledge of cannabis and your passion for making it a career will make you a more valuable employee and will also make you an ambassador for cannabis anytime the opportunity to educate others arises.
GET IN WHERE YOU FIT IN
A popular new trend in legal cannabis markets is industry-related job fairs. While trade shows and similar events are nothing new to cannabis, these job fairs are and so far they have proven to be an excellent resource for employers and job seekers alike.
You can typically find information online in the weeks leading up to events in your area – you can even set a Google Alert to holler at you when relevant events pop up on the web. But, before you go, make sure you have a resume prepared and lots of copies ready to hand out.
Many cannabis startups are still figuring things out as well, and their hiring portal may not be online and they often will not even have blank applications to be filled out. Show initiative by having your contact info and experience in an easy to read format that you can leave with them.
Afraid that you don’t have relevant experience? Here’s a secret: ALL work experience is relevant to cannabis. Do you show up on time? Do you get the work done? Can you do those things without annoying everyone around you? Any experience demonstrating those basics will work in your favor.
As crazy as it may seem, the summer that you interned at the local food bank is probably more valuable in the eyes of an employer than the summer you spent slangin’ dimebags of dank to dingbats.
Here are a few ways that you can build useful experience outside of the regulated cannabis industry that could help you get in that door later on.
ANCILLARY PRODUCTS & SERVICES
As with most industries, there are countless tangential jobs and careers that supply or support licensed cannabis entities from the outside, and who may not count solely on cannabis for their clientele.
Think of jobs in packaging sales, smokeshop or headshop retail, accounting or insurance services, or marketing and content creation. These companies are often not hamstrung by the crippling regulations attached to cannabis, but they still play a vital role in the day to day operations of cannabis companies.
If you are not 21 yet or have not been able to crack directly into the plant-touching side of the market, consider the above options to gain real-world experience and build that work ethic.
The greatest rewards will always require some risk… Have an idea for a product or service and some time on your hands? Manifest it into reality and, if you’re determined, monetize it into a revenue stream for yourself. Build a brand through social media, merch sales, and consistent content for your followers and you could have top cannabis companies knocking at YOUR door in no time.
Unpaid internships, in theory, are supposed to benefit the unpaid intern by helping them gain valuable experience but in mainstream America, they are too often just teens and college kids being taken advantage of by greedy corporations. Fortunately, this concept still holds value in the blooming cannabis sector but you need to be picky about whose flag you fly for free.
Experience as in intern carries the most weight with the entity that you dedicated that time and effort to in the first place, so finding one that will be around for the long haul and will provide the opportunity for advancement is a major bonus.
Volunteering at cannabis events – like this opportunity with the upcoming Emerald Cup in December – is a great resume-builder and doing so will get you into the event itself where the potential for further networking and education is endless.
BACK 2 SCHOOL
Oh, what a time to be alive. When we went to college we had to walk uphill both ways to get there and we had to smoke brick weed out of a soda can before we got there. None of that is true but you get the point. Today there are a growing number of totally legit college courses – like this one in San Diego – that specifically cover the unique facets of the cannabis industry from a business perspective.
THE DEATH OF THE HOMIE HOOKUP
The days of the homie hookup to get your feet in the door of the cannabis game are all but over. If you have a friend who has positioned themselves in the legal cannabis market, you (as their supposed homie) should appreciate the hard work and high costs it took for them to get there. Most legal operators are working with Top Ramen margins for now as everyone tries to make it to brighter days.
Similarly, sliding into the DM of someone you perceive to be successful is not a formula for your success. If they are hiring, there will be a protocol – figure it out and follow it.
Most importantly, you have to ask yourself – What do you bring to the table?
That is the real question and one you will definitely want to have an answer for no matter who is asking.
Industry watchdogs say that California alone will add over 10,000 new cannabis jobs in 2019. Florida is expected to have added 9,500 more by year’s end as well. Overall, it is estimated that more than 200,000 Americans work in legal cannabis and that number jumps to well over 300k once you factor in the ancillary jobs like those we discussed above. With a 44% increase in the weed workforce between 2018-2019, legal cannabis is by far the fastest-growing job sector in the U.S.
These numbers will only get higher in coming years as more Americans look to do the same.
As Bushwick Bill from Death Row taught us: There are three types of people in the world; those who don’t know what happened, those who won’t know what happened, and people like us from the streets that MAKE THINGS HAPPEN… which one are you?