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Tuesday December 24, 2019

By Paul Barach


How do I get a start in the cannabis industry? In the imagination of many a cannabis consumer looking to turn their love of weed into a career in the cannabis industry, it’s an easy path. Simply walk into a dispensary, grow, or other business and tell the nearest employee “I like weed too!” They’ll reply with something like “I know, right? It’s the dopest!” The next thing you know you’re filling out some employment documents and sharing a celebration dab with your new work friends in the owner’s office. Of course, as you may have found out by now (or will find out soon), getting a job in any part of the cannabis industry is much harder than simply enjoying marijuana. Luckily, PotGuide is here to help with some tips for first-timers entering the cannabis industry.

Looking for a job in the marijuana industry? Browse PotGuide's cannabis job board here.

Be Professional from the Start

First impressions matter in every industry and marijuana is no different, starting with your resume. Putting “I’m hella into the herb” on your CV under “Interests” and “been selling it since middle school ;)” under “Previous Experience” is a good way to get your resume filed directly into the recycle bin.

Follow the link to learn how to write a resume for cannabis industry employment.

For certain, the cannabis industry can be one of the most fun businesses to work in. It’s filled with quirky, independent, creative people from all walks of life who know how to relax and party. However, it’s also one of the most highly regulated industries out there, and a competitive market. There are a lot of responsibilities and procedures to follow, and a regulatory mistake by one employee could get the entire business shut down. This is especially true in a dispensary.

While you’ll find plenty of flaky, crunchy employees out there, most companies are looking to hire responsible, hard-working, and knowledgeable people with strong attention to detail. A professional-looking resume tells employers that you may be who they’re looking for. When you come in for an interview, dress for the job you want. You don’t need a pressed button-up shirt and slacks to get hired at a dispensary, but it helps. On the business side, it’s necessary. Come into the interview sober, show that you’ll take the job seriously, and it’ll put you far ahead of your competition.

It's important to dress appropriately for the position you're interviewing for. photo credit

It also helps to have questions to ask about the company itself in the interview. Instead of asking the interviewer about their favorite strain or how they like to party, a better question is what they are looking for in an employee, where they see the company growing in the future, and what one has to do in order to advance. Doing a little bit of research into the company on their website also helps a lot.

Know Your Strengths

Your passion for weed is of course your greatest asset in this industry. If you can talk all day every day about weed and know everything about every product, you are off to a great start. However, if you have problems striking up conversations with strangers or dealing with rejection, then customer service or sales may not be the best spot for you.

Before applying for a job in the cannabis industry, save yourself some time by asking some serious questions. What are your goals for working in weed? What environments do you enjoy working in and where do you thrive? What level of income are you hoping to reach? Where in the industry do you want to end up? Knowing the answers to questions like these will make it much easier to pick your path in the cannabis industry.

Taking the time to know your strengths and goals can help you stand out in an interview. photo credit

For example, if you’re only looking for a fun, relaxed job and easy access to products, then being a budtender at a dispensary might be for you. However, if you’re looking to run your own edibles company someday, skip the dispensaries and contact the companies that make your favorite products. See if they’re hiring and what positions they need filled.

It Never Hurts to Ask Questions

While we’re on the subject, the next time you’re visiting a dispensary, feel free to ask questions of the budtenders on how they got their start. Visit local cannabis industry events and see what the employees at the booths have to say about their company. There’s a lot to be said for making face-to-face connections. Get an email address or other contact info and politely follow up.

Have the Skills (To Pay the Bills)

What are you talented at? There’s a lot to be said for starting in the industry from the ground up, but having a specific skill that’s needed in the industry can make getting hired much easier. Most weed companies are still in their start-up stages and are looking for talent to fill needed roles and grow with the company.

If you’re a Photoshop wizard, there are plenty of package design jobs to apply to and everyone needs ads for their products that catch a consumer’s eye. If you’re good with numbers, there’s always a need for bookkeepers and accounting as the company grows larger. If words are your thing, cannabis websites are always looking for new articles to be pitched, editing help, and other positions that are usually advertised on their sites.

Make sure you have the skills to perform well at a position before applying. photo credit

Specialized skills such as chemists are in high demand, especially in the concentrate companies. There is also a large need for lawyers. These jobs are some of the highest paid and a great way to enter the industry. Also to note: while you may be tempted to send in your resume to a cannabis employment agency advertising a start in the industry, many people never get a call back. It’s a better use of your time to send in your resume directly.

Manage Your Expectations

There is a lot of money to be made in the cannabis business, but most people aren’t making a lot. Getting an entry level job as a trimmer or a budtender for the experience can be a solid track to moving up through the industry. However, both jobs don’t pay as well as you’d hope and in a couple of years you may only have moved up to a low-level manager position, which also might not pay what you’d hope.

There is a large pool of potential cannabis employees in the industry, especially for lower level jobs, and many companies are still in the start-up stages. This means that all their money will be going into growth and maintenance, and not necessarily into payroll.

Even upper management in some companies aren’t getting the compensation they would get at the same position in another industry.

The people who stick around in the industry have a lot of passion for cannabis and enjoy their jobs. There are a lot of perks to the cannabis business and a lot of fun to be had in an exciting, new industry. In the end, you are responsible for your path in the cannabis business. Unlike more established industries, there is no clear path to the top. However, that means there are even more opportunities for dedicated people willing to turn their passion for cannabis into their dream career. If that sounds like you, then decide what part of the industry sounds like the best fit for you, have some trusted friends take a look over your resume, and find your place in the weed biz. Best of luck!

Do you have any experience working in the cannabis industry? Share your stories and tips in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Free To Use Sounds (license)


Paul Barach Paul Barach

Paul Barach is a Seattle-based freelance writer, editor, and author with experience creating well-researched, edited web articles covering cannabis news, culture, history and science. Paul is a regular contributor to PotGuide and has also contributed to publications such as, SlabMechanix, Litro, and The Trek. He prefers to spend his free time outdoors and most recently hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. So far he has only fallen into the La Brea Tarpits once. You can follow him on Instagram @BarachOutdoors and stay up to date professionally through his LinkedIn page.

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