As the cannabis industry matures, there's been an explosion in all sectors of the job market. Not only have we seen a massive increase in the number of cannabis jobs available, but also in the types of jobs available as well. Ten or fifteen years ago, most jobs in cannabis were dispensary jobs that required some level of bravery due to the murky legality of the nubile market. Early budtenders, for example, often found themselves on the frontlines of robberies and Federal raids armed with little more than a baseball bat and a deadbolt.
Boy, do things change.
The cannabis industry now supports close to 500,000 jobs and racked up $25 billion in sales in 2021. Because weed is a particularly multifaceted industry, there are a lot of employment opportunities. Between the cultivation side, the business side, sales, and consumer-facing positions, a new wave of unique jobs have become available, with positions suitable for any skill set.
The changing cannabis market
“I think the biggest change we've seen in the cannabis job market is just the maturing of different roles," said Kelsea Appelbaum from Vangst, a cannabis industry hiring platform. “Five years ago, when I got into the industry, a lot of the jobs were really straightforward and lacked a lot of depth."
Applebaum continued, “What I mean by that is that people didn't understand the intricacies of cannabis. They assumed that a really generic approach to hiring was important. For example, a cultivator was just a cultivator. Companies didn't appreciate the skillset and the intricacies and the passion that actually go into being a strong cultivator. Now, I think companies actually know what they're looking for."
As with any burgeoning industry, the advantages of cannabis jobs are met with an equally unique set of disadvantages. The market is volatile. Things are changing all the time, and the lack of federal legality still poses a set of challenges, especially in terms of banking, which can be frustrating for those new to the industry.
When asked for her advice for prospective weed workers, Applebaum said that thick skin is a must. “If you get frustrated by hearing no, you probably shouldn't be in this industry. Building up resilience when you're starting your job search is really important."
“There are a lot of misconceptions about what cannabis is and what exactly people do in cannabis. A lot of times, people looking for work in cannabis are looking for a job for months, or even years, because that perfect job may not even exist yet."
She concluded, "The best advice I have is to maintain a positive attitude and support your community. I think the best jobs actually come from natural opportunities, and the best way to get involved in cannabis is to support different advocacy groups at a local level. That could lead to a fantastic career start."
Here are some cannabis jobs to consider if you're looking to get your start in the industry.
Entry-level roles in the cannabis industry
If you're looking to get your foot in the door, consider these positions.
Cultivation Technicians — commonly known as "trimmers" — are responsible for hand-trimming flower in an efficient manner while ensuring quality cannabis leaves the cultivation facility. This is typically an hourly position but an important one because hand-trimmed flower is vastly superior to flower that's been processed through a mechanical trimming machine.
Good skills to have: attention to detail, consistency, an ability to focus for hours at a time
The Quality Manager role is designed to ensure quality at every step of production. As a Quality Manager, you might be overseeing product and environmental testing, internal product releases, product recalls, product returns, and product labeling in accordance with state regulations, along with being the brand's internal procedures and processes point person.
Good skills to have: attention to detail, organization, flexibility, basic math skills
The Edibles Specialist oversees the kitchen and maintains high standards for product development, formulation, dosing, finished product, and cleanliness. Some roles may involve managing a production team.
Good skills to have: time management, organization, consistency, cleanliness
A Sales Representative focuses on selling a company's suite of products or services. Often a consumer-facing position, they also activate booths at dispensaries and do demos.
Good skills to have: communication, persistence, storytelling, active listening
Packagers are primarily hourly positions responsible for the accurate packaging of cannabis into pre-weighed containers and pre-rolled joints.
Good skills to have: attention to detail, consistency, focus
A delivery driver delivers cannabis products from a licensed retailer or dispensary straight to consumers. While delivery drivers are often hourly workers, they typically have the ability to make tips.
Good skills to have: safe driving (of course), customer service, navigation, time management
Higher-level roles in cannabis
Already have some experience in the industry or have worked similar positions in higher-level roles? Consider these options during your job hunt.
VP of Retail Operations
The lead position in retail, the VP of Retail Operations is responsible for leading retail store teams, along with ensuring each store is equipped with the right infrastructure, policies, and standard operating procedures to deliver on customer experience.
Good skills to have: written and verbal communication, leadership, people management
Director of Cultivation
The Director of Cultivation oversees the operations of all cultivation facilities, manages cultivation teams, and establishes standard operating procedures to meet production goals.
Good skills to have: flexibility, project management, people management, technical knowledge of grow systems and regulations
The lead position in sales, the Sales Director develops a company's sales strategy across all operational zones — state-by-state, regional, or national.
Good skills to have: teaching ability, motivational speaking, leadership, strategic thinking
The Lab Manager is responsible for all post-harvest processes, like performing chemical analysis for harvest timing, processing, and creating extraction operating procedures.
Good skills to have: collaboration, problem-solving, deep understanding of safety protocols and regulations, prioritization