How to get a job in the marijuana industry
For anyone curious about working in the world of weed, a new resource makes job-hunting easier.
A recruiting agency for legal cannabis firms has launched a website that aims to serve as a one-stop shop for employers and job seekers. The site, Vangsters, allows hopefuls to apply to jobs and crate employee profiles, with a focus on marijuana-specific skills and software.
With eight U.S. states having legalized recreational marijuana, and 20 more allowing it for medical use, it's clear the field is set to only keep growing. And with that growth potential, many workers -- particularly those in other professions yet to see much in the way of raises -- might be looking over at a rapidly expanding industry offering a range of career opportunities.
But how should someone intrigued by the idea of working in the cannabis sector start searching, and what ind of jobs are available? Read on if you're thinking of taking a leap into the burgeoning new industry.
First, the good news. The legal marijuana business is set to add some 80,000 jobs in the U.S. over the next few years. By 2021, the direct and indirect effect of recreational and medical cannabis, including jobs at businesses that service the pot industry, will create an estimated 400,000 jobs, according to industry analysts Arcview Market Research.
Now the bad news. With legal marijuana hailed as the new "gold rush," competition for work is fierce as people from other industries try to break into the sector.
"There are more people who are interested in getting into the space than there are jobs," said Karson Humiston, CEO of recruiting agency Vangst, which is behind Vangsters. About 5,500 job-seekers have filled out profiles on the site since it went online in January, she said.
Where to look
SOURCE: MARIJUANA POLICY PROJECT
Pick your sector
The legal marijuana industry breaks down into a few major areas: growing, retailing, infused products and ancillary services (think software development, business-to-business sales and so forth). If you're unsure where to look, thinking about these sectors and their mainstream analogs can help you figure out where to focus your efforts.
Do you have experience in hospitality, restaurants or high-end retail? Workers who've been in high-volume, customer-facing industries are in demand at marijuana dispensaries, the largest subsector in the cannabis field.
"They tend to be high-end, well-paid retail jobs," said Tom Adams, ArcView's editor-in-chief. "The cannabis industry is the classic mom-and-pop scenario. It's very labor intensive, and those mom-and-pop operators tend to pay very well to get people who are knowledgeable about cannabis and very good at interacting with a range of consumers."
Higher-end cannabis shops are luring managers away from designer apparel stores, according to Vangst's Humiston.
On the technical side, labs working on infused products, such as sweets, pizza or even gourmet food, need scientists and technicians who can help with product development and test the finished products. Then there's all the other functions that support a business: software engineers, accountants, sales reps.
"Every one of those companies needs an accountant and an executive assistant. The rules of traditional industries apply to this industry," Humiston said.
It works in "dog years"
Why would someone want to move from, say, a conventional tomato farming job to one with a cannabis grower? While the entry-level jobs aren't necessarily better, the pace at which the industry is growing means there is a much better chance of moving up quickly that a worker might have in an established industry.
The challenge for many cannabis companies in the coming years is scaling up -- growing from a customer base of a few hundred to a few thousand, or how to move from having one location to five. "When you're looking at an industry with 25-plus percent growth, the demand [for workers] is going to outstrip supply," Adams said.
On the cultivation side, someone who comes in as a plant trimmer or packager and works hard can hope for a promotion in six to 12 months, according to Vangst. One of the firm's clients worked his way up from trimming to directing a large growth operation in three years.
"It's so new, it's like you're working in dog years," said Kyle Arfsten, Vangst's head of business development. "If you have one year of experience, that counts for a lot."