Now that I’ve worked in what seems every possible facet of the cannabis industry for the last 2 years, from helping open an I-502 recreational store, working behind the counter as a budtender, doing marketing for one of Washington state’s biggest producer/processors to finally starting my own company, I want to give others insight into getting a job in one of America’s fastest growing industries. My path getting into the cannabis industry seemed at times exhausting but yours doesn’t have to be.
While the cannabis industry is highly competitive, it’s not impossible to break into. I’ve written this guide to give people step by step actionable advice to getting their foot in the door. The first thing to ask yourself is, what part of the cannabis industry would you like to work in and what are your strengths? If you don’t know what your personal strengths are, let me first suggest taking this test.
Not sure where to start? Common jobs within the cannabis industry are: edibles creator, concentrates processor, glass blower, cannabis courier, farmer, security, trimmer, cannabis tourism, administration, budtender, regulation, software, retail shop owner, seed harvester, and consulting. Emerging fields like topicals, massage, cannabis yoga, advertising and hospitality are on the verge of mainstream acceptance and incredibly rewarding for those looking to carve a niche of their own. From baking to app development, there is a unique place for everyone looking to create their own space within cannabis.
Most people think of working in the cannabis industry as some 180-degree career move, but in reality, cannabis is just like every other industry with more rules. Your best fit within the industry is a more familiar stepping stone than you’d think. Are you a great designer? Start a cannabis branding agency. Great with people? Become a brand ambassador or work in sales. Or do you prefer to be behind the scenes and make sure everything runs smoothly? You may be a great assistant manager at a cannabis dispensary.
1.Where to look: I got my start off of Craigslist. And while Craigslist gets a bad rap at being the underbelly of the internet, they are the best place to look for most jobs and better yet, an introduction. Funnily enough in my first interview, I had the interviewer offer me a better position than the one I was interviewing for because they said, “I wasn’t a craigslist hire”. Use craigslist to get a face to face meeting and see where it goes from there. You can also look on THCJobs.Com, CannaJobs.Com, 420Careers.Com, these listings are usually more specialized positions that may be too advanced for a beginner.
2. Read these books: You’re going to have to be educated about marijuana and know your shit. I’ve read and recommend the following books: Big Weed, Too High to Fail, Cannabis Manifesto and Weed the People. If you’re growing, Marijuana Business and the Cannabis Encyclopedia.
3. Attend cannabis events- as the age-old saying goes, it’s not what you know, but who you know. Attend cannabis conferences, sponsored events and local store vendor days as often as possible and always take photos. Tag local growers, stores and brands on your social media channels and give them a shoutout. Cannabis brands often struggle to cultivate an online image given the fact they’re so focused on making sure the business stays afloat. By tagging them in well lit high-quality photos, you will not only help them out but also make yourself memorable. Conferences commonly host after parties with ample networking opportunities. Meetup.com also has some fabulous cannabis-themed business groups that meet once a month and are usually free.
4. Want to be a Budtender? Being a budtender was one of my favorite jobs. Interacting with the public and introducing people to new experiences was incredibly rewarding. Educate yourself on all of the existing and emerging brands within your local area. Instagram and Twitter are especially helpful in learning this. This skill helped me in every job I’ve had in cannabis, the more knowledgeable you are, the better asset you are- no matter what the position. Peek at a recreational store’s menu on their website and look up what products they offer. You’re going to need to be familiar with the store’s social media, general vibe and be good with people. 90% of this job is simply connecting with customers and being able to make sound recommendations. There is some stereotype that in order to be a budtender you need to be an attractive female however, I have to say that stereotype is very far from the truth. In my experience, it’s actually harder to get a job as an attractive woman because fewer people take you seriously. Being knowledgeable about what a store sells and compassionate to customers will get you hired.
5. I want to work with (insert brand/store name here): Reach out to them via Instagram or email. 90% of my relationships have been made through connecting online. Seriously, its a lot easier than you think. Often fans/brand evangelists can make the best employees because they’re invested in seeing the business grow. Find a company you really like, write them a short email and ask if they have any entry level positions or internships open. I contacted a brand I loved via email and a few months later when an employment opportunity surfaced, they remembered me. Cannabis companies are basically startups and are more likely to hire from within if you’re looking to demonstrate long term loyalty.
6. Build it and they will come: If you have entrepreneurial spirit, often there is no position for you in the cannabis industry, you must create one. Mason Jar Event Group and The Herbal Chef are great examples of this, they host gourmet cannabis dinners and one-of-a-kind events in beautiful settings, defining a new standard of luxury experience.
7. Security vs Status: Most of the less sexy professions within the cannabis industry offer great security and salaries. If you’re interested in transitioning into a new career in cannabis but have a family to provide for, consider regulation, testing, insurance and administration. These professions are in high demand and offer great growth and security.
8. What if I live in a state where even medical marijuana is still illegal? While living in a state that still criminalizes marijuana sucks, in some ways it can propel you to success. Starting a cannabis related business or working on legalization efforts before the doors are opened to you is one of the best ways to get a head start. Recently I happened to meet two major cannabis influencers from Missouri and my first thought was, “why the hell do you still live in Missouri?”. They explained to me that what had propelled them to success was that they sought to educate people in their local area about the benefits of medical cannabis and despite the lack of support from the government, the hurdles they faced caused them to work ten times harder. One of them runs the famous twitter handle of 400K subscribers, @420humor, and the other helps run the cannabis branding agency CannaCurious Club who has worked with some of the best cannabis brands worldwide. When cannabis is finally legalized in Missouri I have no doubt they will be the ones ready to lead the industry.
9. Social Politics: The cannabis industry is notoriously cliquey. People who have been in the industry longer than you, i.e your supervisors, did so when it was underground and frowned upon. They usually have a bit of a chip on their shoulder as they have likely had their homes raided, been fined or even faced jail time. Their perseverance is what made cannabis legalization possible. To overcome their bias you need to treat these people with respect and try not to shine too bright your first few months on the job. Learn from their experience and show them you’re dedicated and willing to work hard. “Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”-Bernard Baruch.
10. Stoner Culture vs Business Culture: While your dream job may be working in the cannabis industry, there’s a 50% chance your employer may be less than 420 friendly. My previous job working Washington’s states largest growing operation was run by people who did not smoke weed, ever. They actually asked me in my interview if I consumed cannabis and I remember the look of disappointment on their faces as I replied ‘yes’. Although objectively this may be rare, many people in the cannabis industry, especially at higher levels are involved for investment purposes only. When going to an interview it’s important to have a professional attitude and appearance and not make your THC tolerance the subject of the conversation. Now that cannabis is recreationally legal in a growing number of states, the mainstream public is trickling into cannabis dispensaries at increasing numbers. Store owners are aware of this and are seeking staff that are friendly and put first time customers at ease.
11. Recognize that cannabis is medicine: Some people have a hard time understanding that marijuana does anything other than get you high. If you’re planning on working in an industry who’s key value for millions of people is pain relief and anti-inflammation, you need to educate yourself on the amazing health benefits cannabis provides. Start with Charlottes Web, a cannabis strain made famous by treating seizures brought on by epilepsy for a 9-year-old girl.
12: Misconceptions about the cannabis industry:
-You’re going to get rich: Most of the people who’ve are financially successful in the cannabis industry were financially successful prior to joining the industry and are investors or those who pivoted their existing product to target the marijuana industry. Marijuana Don billionaire success stories don’t happen overnight and are mostly a case of smart business sense coupled with impeccable timing.
-You need to be a super stoner to get a job: Some people seem to function perfectly fine no matter how much THC they consume, others treat cannabis as they do wine- for after hours enjoyment only. Figure out which type you are and own it. There is no maxim that says you have to be high all the time to succeed in the cannabis industry.
-Working in the cannabis industry will be chill: Cannabis has been one of the more stressful industries I’ve ever worked in because of it’s rapidly evolving rules and regulations. Right now the cannabis industry is like the wild west and the rules and demand seem to change every day. At the I-502 store I worked at we were nearly slapped with a $5,000 fine by the liquor control board for posting on Facebook that a strain of weed we sold ‘may reduce anxiety’. They told us that our post was too close to medical advice and that we would be shut down if we ever did it again. Be prepared for rules and procedures changing at a moments notice and to work longer hours with potentially less pay than literally any other job.
13. Don’t be discouraged: My main take home lesson in this article is how many different paths there are to joining the great world of cannabis. I went on two interviews where I wasn’t hired for a job I knew I was overqualified for but I didn’t let that stop me. If you’re determined, passionate and willing to put in the work, its likely you’ll thrive in cannabis no matter who says ‘no’ to you at first.
Have questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org :)
Note: while I’m discussing Washington state’s cannabis industry, most of this advice applies to all cannabis-friendly states.