California’s legal cannabis industry made headlines in 2018. While Prop 64 unleashed major changes for all kinds of canna-businesses, the growing industry is quickly expanding into traditional sectors of the economy. And that’s creating a host of new opportunities for job seekers interested in breaking into the marijuana industry.
The chief economist at online employment marketplace ZipRecruiter reports the cannabis industry is adding jobs at a rate that outpaces both tech and health care. It’s OK if you have your sights set on becoming a part of the cannabis industry, but don’t have any formal experience working with marijuana. Most folks new to the cannabis sector will need to start in an entry-level position and work their way up.
"Employers [in the cannabis industry] seek skills and attributes that would be familiar to many,” says Michael Kraft, a senior project manager at Sequoia Personnel Services, a traditional staffing agency located in the heart of the Emerald Triangle. So, if you’re a cannabis enthusiast who turns green with envy when hearing about friends working in the marijuana business, here are a few helpful tips on finding a cannabis job.
Vangsters is the cannabis industry’s best-known resource for job seekers. An HR company and staffing agency, Vangsters thinks like a social media platform. By signing up and creating a profile, users can confidentially scroll through hundreds of jobs postings, build a digital portfolio and share photos.
Based in Denver, CO, Vangsters has quickly expanded its reach across the United States. New jobs are posted on Vangsters every day in:
While experienced cultivators and managers can advance their career by networking on Vangsters, marijuana industry newbies can use Vangsters as a point of entry. Start by building an active portfolio that details your experience outside the cannabis industry.
Full-service cannabis staffing company Dark Staffing Solutions helps job seekers prepare their résumé and apply for a variety of positions. Located in the heart of the Emerald Triangle, Dark Staffing Solutions posts many opportunities related to cultivation including:
With 11 years of experience in management, staffing consulting and human resources in Humboldt County, owner Jaymi Dark knows that many local job seekers already have experience in the cannabis industry. It’s up to Dark Staffing Solutions to help applicants translate this experience—never before written on paper—into the legal marijuana industry.
For example, did you spend last summer hauling soil on a farm or trimming cannabis to pay the bills? Or perhaps you know how to transplant and irrigate plants. Skills like these can certainly catch the eye of cannabis industry employers. You’ll just need to know how to show this information in the best way possible. And working with recruiters at a cannabis staffing agency is the best way to do this. They understand the appropriate terminology to write on a cannabis industry résumé. They’ll also know the best way to present details about your hard-earned experience so that you’ll appear polished and professional to prospective employers.
For example, rather than saying you “trimmed on a farm” on your résumé, write that you helped to “clean, manicure and finish premium cannabis flowers for retail sale in a collaborative setting while meeting team goals.” Detail how many hours you put in each day and how satisfied your employer was with the quality of your work.
Finally, don’t be shy about sharing why you’re passionate about working in cannabis—many of the industry leaders feel the same way. Even if you’ve never worked in the cannabis industry, employers will be more willing to give you a chance if you have some kind of personal connection to the plant. Just make sure to use professional language, and your authenticity and passion will be appreciated.
In addition to the job boards found at Vangsters and Dark Staffing Solutions, a number of other websites have job boards specifically geared to help match good candidates with growing cannabis companies. Check out sites like:
Since recreational cannabis became legal in many states, mainstream markets are rapidly merging with the cannabis industry. This is generating a number of jobs in ancillary services related to cultivation, production, and sales and marketing. No longer sidelined by stigma, cannabis industry job seekers can now use mainstream job boards like:
For example, in May 2018, a cursory search of cannabis jobs in the San Francisco/Bay Area on Craigslist returned over 100 results. Positions to be filled include:
According to ZipRecruiter data, the total number of cannabis industry job posts increased by 445% in 2017, compared to an increase of just 18% one year prior.
Now that you understand how to leverage previous experience in the workforce, what type of entry-level cannabis jobs are available?
While machines have long threatened trimming jobs, manpower is holding its own in the cannabis industry. Even when farms and grow operations use machines to trim their crop, it’s still necessary to give buds a final manicure by hand.
Traditionally, trimmers have always been compensated per pound, meaning that more skilled workers earn a larger payout. In a sense, trimming was a job comparable to self-employment or working for commission—what you put in, you get out.
In today’s legal marijuana sector, cultivators are required to uphold worker’s rights like any other industry, meaning regular breaks, clean bathrooms and eight-hour work days. These changes have downgraded the pay scale for trimmers, now typically known as manicurists or finishers. Most entry-level positions start at $12 an hour with the opportunity to advance.
If you’ve ever trimmed marijuana, list this experience on your résumé, emphasizing your ability to equally prioritize quality and quantity. Cultivators want to see premium buds in peak condition for the retail market, but they also want to maximize the highest yield possible from their workers.
In California’s legal cannabis industry, a dizzying number of regulations govern the safety of products available to the public. Cultivators must ensure their plants are free from pesticides, mold and bacteria by relying on third-party laboratories to test their products.
Labs serving the cannabis industry are seeking technicians with biology or chemistry degrees, but don’t require prior cannabis experience. If you have a science background, working for a lab is a great opportunity to gain a foothold in the industry.
As the industry rapidly grows, successful companies can’t move fast enough to meet demand. In Arcata, CA, Wendy Baker has been making candies infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), known as Space Gems, since 2013. With a firm reputation for reliable dosing and high-quality products, her business is hustling to meet demand from dispensaries throughout California.
To fill orders, Wendy recently hired several entry-level workers to seal, package and label the candies. Many other edible and value-added cannabis companies are also seeking entry-level workers for routine production positions like these.
Just as the name implies, budtenders, or cannabis consultants, are expected to help dispensary customers select and purchase the best product for their needs. While a high level of knowledge about cannabis strains and markers of quality is expected, many dispensaries are willing to train outgoing and friendly candidates as budtenders.
Similar to other industries, the most important quality for customer service positions is a natural ability to spend hours a day helping customers with a smile. If you’re passionate about cannabis, a dispensary is a great place to learn more about the plant and work your way up.
If you’re new to this position, don’t expect to land a job with the city’s most popular dispensary. But wherever you apply, emphasize your willingness to learn while packaging orders, checking in guests or enthusiastically addressing routine tasks like cleaning bathrooms and taking out the trash.
As many heritage cannabis farms are located in the far reaches of Northern California, transportation to urban dispensaries is a major hurdle for successful cultivators. Additionally, with the implementation of the state’s track and trace program, transportation is now a heavily regulated aspect of the legal marijuana industry.
Positions—including entry-level jobs—in delivery and distribution are on the rise. If applying for a driver position, list applicable experience and emphasize your attention to detail and history of dependability. California is a huge state and growing cannabis companies will be onboarding drivers and delivery assistants to manage the essential details of distributing heavily regulated products from point A to B safely and securely.
And as cannabis delivery services gain in popularity—and are the only option for those locations that don’t plan on allowing dispensaries—marijuana delivery drivers will be in high demand. Delivery drivers will need to have the skills listed above, plus some of the sought-after qualities of customer service positions. Because delivery drivers have contact with customers, they’ll have to be courteous, competent and professional.
While hundreds of postings for cannabis industry jobs can be found online, nothing can compare to real-life connections. If you’re committed to finding your dream job in the cannabis industry, get out there and start meeting other cannabis professionals. Industry mixers and events are often hosted by cannabis magazines, marijuana businesses and even some industry associations. In communities with a large cannabis workforce, trade workshops for farmers and cannabis companies are frequently hosted by staffing agencies, accounting firms and legal services.
Even if you’re not yet employed, the power of a meet-and-greet can’t be underestimated. You’re likely to learn something new and meet some friendly folks who might prove invaluable in your job search. Good luck, and if you already work in the cannabis industry, let us know in the comments how you got started.
Photo credit: Don Goofy