What It’s Like to Break Into the Legal Cannabis Industry

By Michael Cheng | May 13, 2017

According to Monster, a leading career management and placement hub, the legal cannabis industry is filled with new, lucrative work opportunities. The jobs pay slightly above average (depending on where you are in the US), ranging between $50,000-$90,000 per year. For managers of growing operations and concentrate makers (note: a very dangerous job that usually requires a PhD), most salaries come with six fat figures.

“Everybody’s expanding right now,” said Elan Nelson, business consultant for Medicine Man, one of the largest marijuana shops in Denver. “Really, we’re just trying to keep up with demand.”

It doesn’t hurt that the majority of people who are drawn to the nascent sector are cannabis enthusiasts who were avid fans of the plant during the prohibition era. For individuals who are curious about what working in the industry is like, below provides a general overview of day-to-day operations on legal cannabis farms and dispensaries.

Bud Trimmers

Most people break into the industry as a seasonal bud trimmer. This position is comparable to your typical temp or entry level job straight out of college. According to Forbes, such positions pay roughly $12-$13 per hour or by the pound, depending on the farm. You’ll be working with a diverse group of people, from professionals looking to get their foot in the industry to travelers funding their trips with temp jobs. The work requires a lot of sitting and – as you might’ve guessed – a lot of cutting.

For assertive folks, bud trimming is a great opportunity to work your way up the ranks in the farm. For example, Bo McGee, a contributor for Business Insider, was able to transition from a seasonal bud trimmer to a veteran cultivator. All it takes is a little commitment.

Bud Tenders/Dispensary Managers

Bud tenders are the frontline members of cannabis dispensaries. They interact with customers and make sure inventory is always in order around the store. When they aren’t providing recommendations and building customer relationships, they’re learning about different strains and constantly updating their knowledge about legal cannabis laws. Education is a large part of the job, which happens at a constant pace.

Bud tending is a suitable opportunity for people who want to get into the industry but don’t want to start in a farm as a bud trimmer. Dispensary managers oversee legal cannabis stores and can make roughly $75,000 per year (not including bonus).

Cultivators/Grow Masters

Cannabis farming positions aren’t exactly entry level, so you’ll either need a background in horticulture or previous experience as a grower. For individuals without any of the two prerequisites (relevant background or experience), don’t worry. It is also possible to transition from bud trimming or tending to farming.

Cannabis cultivation is a 24/7 job. If the lighting system fails at 4am, you have to fix it immediately or risk missing monthly harvest quotas. In addition to requiring deep technical knowledge about the plant, you’ll also have to deal with the physical aspects of the position. This includes lugging around bags of fertilizer and water, climbing ladders to fix light fixtures or ventilation systems and constant pacing around the grow site.

“Inside the cannabis industry, we are focused on professional, qualified people — just like any other industry,” explained O.penVape chief revenue officer Todd Mitchem.

Michael Cheng

Michael is a legal editor with publications for Blackberry, Lifehack.org and R Magazine. He specializes in tech startups, cannabis gadgets and fitness wearables. He enjoys spending time outdoors, being a productive father and partaking in a nightly toke after the end of a long day.

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