The cannabis industry is booming, and with its growth comes a wide range of job opportunities that cater to diverse skills and interests. As more countries and states around the world legalize or decriminalize cannabis, the industry has evolved beyond simply growing and selling marijuana. If you live in a state where cannabis is legal, it’s likely there’s a cannabis job near you! From cultivation to research, marketing, and legal compliance, cannabis-related jobs have become an integral part of the global job market. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the exciting world of cannabis jobs.

1. Cannabis Cultivation Jobs

Cannabis cultivation is the foundation of the industry. Cultivation jobs include positions such as growers, trimmers, and cultivation technicians. Growers are responsible for the health and productivity of cannabis plants, ensuring they thrive throughout their lifecycle. Trimmers carefully manicure the harvested buds to prepare them for sale, while cultivation technicians assist in various stages of plant care, from propagation to harvest.

What to Expect Working in Cannabis Cultivation

Each cannabis company has its own way of organizing, but being a Trimmer is a common entry opportunity to working in cannabis cultivation. Those who are inexperienced may also assist in plant care activities like potting, watering, and harvesting. As you gain experience you may also help with cloning and caring for young plants which are more sensitive.

A good background for someone interested in working in cannabis cultivation is experience working at garden centers or in landscaping. Cannabis cultivation is a very physical job. You will need to be able to lift heavy plants and for trimming, there is the stress of repetitive action on your hands. You should also be prepared for working conditions that can be hot and humid. Be aware that over time you can develop allergies like rashes or breathing troubles from working very closely with cannabis plants. Protective clothing can help prevent you from developing these reactions. You should also be aware that cannabis cultivation is odorous and involves exposure to chemicals like nutrients and pesticides. While many growers use natural nutrients and pesticides, these can still cause irritation and bad odors.

Despite the drawbacks, many people enjoy working in cannabis cultivation because it is a unique opportunity to see the plants grow and mature. You also get previews of new strains. Highly experienced cannabis growers can also find more advanced opportunities to manage cultivation. These individuals plan cultivation cycles, select strains to grow, and may even create new breeds or select special phenotypes. In addition to a deep knowledge of cannabis cultivation, they also need to understand pest prevention and fundamental business skills like staff management, project planning, and keeping supplies stocked.

2. Retail and Dispensary Jobs

With the rise of legal cannabis markets, the need for knowledgeable and customer-oriented staff in dispensaries has grown significantly. Jobs in this sector include budtenders, store managers, and inventory specialists. Budtenders provide customers with product recommendations, information on strains, and assistance in selecting the right cannabis products for their needs.

What to Expect Working in a Cannabis Dispensary

Working in a cannabis dispensary is not too different from any other retail position except for the very unique product you are selling. Cannabis dispensary workers must handle cash registers, stocking, and customer service. The customer service aspect of working in a dispensary can be very tricky. Many customers come in looking for cannabis strains with specific traits. Because of this, dispensary workers need to know a lot about the different strains that are being carried to give customers a product with the desired effects and flavors. Since cannabis is more than just flower, dispensary workers also need to know about dabs, vapes, tinctures, and topicals.

A common mistake among dispensary workers is providing medical advice to customers. Many customers will ask about the medicinal effects of cannabis, but it is important to remember that you are not qualified to advise on this. Doing so could harm the customer and cost you your job. It is natural to want to be helpful, but the best way to help them is to refer them to a medical cannabis doctor. When talking about strain effects, you can use words like sedative, energizing, relaxing, soothing, and calming. This gives the customer an idea of what to expect without overreaching.

Working in a cannabis dispensary is a great opportunity for people who are sociable and have a deep interest in cannabis. You’ll also need to be able to stand for extended periods of time and be able to handle the math associated with working a register. Most states will require you to get a marijuana work permit that can involve a small test to ensure you understand local regulations and laws.

3. Extraction and Processing Jobs

Cannabis extraction and processing involve turning harvested cannabis plants into various products, such as oils, edibles, and concentrates. Jobs in this sector include extraction technicians, laboratory analysts, and product developers. These professionals play a critical role in creating the diverse array of cannabis products available on the market.

What to Expect Working in Cannabis Extraction

In order to work in cannabis extraction, you will likely need to have a bachelor’s degree in a scientific field. Chemistry is usually preferred, but many biology majors will also have chemistry experience. The difficulty for these candidates is that cannabis extraction jobs often pay less than jobs within the scientific industry. You’ll also need to keep in mind the potential for discrimination if you later decide to move from the cannabis industry into the “proper” scientific world. In this way, working in cannabis extraction can be ideal for newer graduates but can also hinder their career long-term.

When working in cannabis extraction, you are responsible for extracting and concentrating cannabinoids and terpenes. This process often involves the use of solvents like ethanol, butane, and propane, but there are solvent-less technologies as well. Making cannabis extracts can be fun because there are many different methods and many different technologies that can be used. Whether you are making hash, rosin, shatter, budder, or diamonds, you will have the opportunity to use many different processing methods.

Cannabis processing and extraction is not as physically intensive as cultivation and is more suitable for introverts than dispensary work, but it does have drawbacks. Along with working with potentially dangerous chemicals, you will need to deal with many sticky situations. Since extracts are especially messy, you’ll need to spend a decent amount of time cleaning. Overall, many scientists love working in cannabis extraction, but you’ll need to adapt your lifestyle to accommodate the commonly low pay.

4. Cannabis Testing Laboratory Jobs

The cannabis industry continually evolves, and cannabis testing is a vital component. Scientists working in cannabis testing labs determine cannabinoid potency, screen products for pesticides, quantify terpene profiles, and perform other tests such as residual solvent testing, microbiology testing, and heavy metals testing. When you are working in a cannabis testing laboratory, you are positioned between cannabis companies and regulators. It is your job to ensure that products comply with regulations and report results to state tracking systems.

What to Expect Working in a Cannabis Testing Laboratory

Similar to cannabis extractors, cannabis laboratory workers will need to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Chemistry or biology are the preferred majors, and like extraction, the payscale is typically lower than these individuals would find in the “proper” scientific industry. Again, working in a cannabis laboratory can be a possible red mark on your resume if you decide to pursue future work in science so you need to carefully consider your options.

Overall, working in a cannabis testing laboratory can be very fun and rewarding. You get to preview new products and you can get an inside look into their quality. Day-to-day work involves extracting products, performing dilutions, and testing them using scientific instrumentation like high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and gas spectrometry mass spectrometry (GCMS). This will involve working with chemicals and possible safety hazards, and you’ll also need to follow standard operating procedures.

In addition to laboratory technicians, cannabis testing laboratories also need staff for sampling and transporting, reception and customer service, and for quality assurance. These supportive staff positions play an integral role in keeping the laboratory running by gaining and retaining clients, bringing in sample material, and ensuring that the laboratory is operating according to regulations.

5. Cannabis Marketing and Branding Jobs

As competition in the cannabis industry increases, the need for marketing and branding professionals grows. Jobs in this category include marketing managers, graphic designers, and social media specialists. These individuals help cannabis companies establish their brands, create appealing packaging, and engage with customers through various marketing channels.

What to Expect Working in Cannabis Marketing

Many people enjoy working in cannabis marketing because it is a very fun product, but state regulations also limit the type of marketing that can be done. Some of the biggest challenges include not making medical claims, not making marketing that is appealing to children, and overcoming anti-cannabis policies on social media platforms. Despite these challenges, many marketers find very creative ways to reach customers by positioning cannabis brands similarly to lifestyle brands. They do this by sponsoring local music events and sporting events, holding in-store events at dispensaries, and finding ways that cannabis companies can contribute positively to their communities.

Unlike other cannabis jobs, cannabis marketing pay holds up quite well. While they are often not the best-paying positions, they tend to be more in line with marketing pay for any other type of product. However, many cannabis companies will want to work with freelance marketing staff instead of hiring full-time. This is because many cannabis companies are small businesses that are already burdened with high costs for operation and regulatory compliance. They also know that in order to be successful, marketing is key.

In this way, cannabis companies are willing to pay to get good results but want to avoid marketing tactics that won’t benefit them due to their legal limitations. Marketers need to be aware of this- while it may make sense to do geofencing and SEO for a dispensary that people would search for online, these tactics have no value to a cannabis cultivator that needs better branding. By understanding these different needs and limitations, you can give cannabis clients tangible results that they will value.

6. Cannabis Regulation, Legal, and Compliance Jobs

Navigating the complex web of regulations that surround the cannabis industry is no easy task. Legal experts, compliance officers, and regulatory affairs specialists play a pivotal role in ensuring that cannabis businesses operate within the boundaries of the law. This sector is crucial for maintaining the legitimacy and sustainability of the industry.

What to Expect Working in Cannabis Regulation and Law

Working for a state cannabis commission is a big responsibility. These professionals are akin to EPA or FDA regulators. In addition to collecting fees and processing materials like license applications, they also go out to facilities to conduct audits. Cannabis regulators are most often alumni of other government affairs offices that have experience with bureaucratic processes. They have a hefty duty since there are typically just a few compliance jobs for a very large business market. This means traveling around the state to conduct audits, evaluating and investigating complaints in case a recall needs to be issued, and ensuring that cannabis businesses are upholding the conditions of their licensure.

While most cannabis businesses act in good faith to produce a good product, they also tend to be run by people who are not accustomed to strict regulations. This can lead to corner-cutting at times, thinking that it will not be a big deal. However, once met with inspection, those errors can turn into very big deals. This is a big reason why there is also a strong need for cannabis lawyers. Cannabis lawyers don’t make sure your businesses follow regulations, but they do provide support for legal issues that arise from audits. They can also help with more general legal issues that come along with running a business such as labor practices and business entity filings.

7. Security and Transportation Jobs

Given the high value of cannabis products, security is a top priority for businesses in the industry. Security officers, transporters, and logistics experts are responsible for safeguarding both products and assets. This includes secure transportation of cannabis between facilities and ensuring the safety of employees and customers.

What to Expect Working in Cannabis Security and Transportation

Security and transportation are especially important and highly sensitive jobs in cannabis. Of course, the risk of theft is worrisome. However, the more common risk is the risk of not complying with regulations. For example, cannabis flower needs to be transported and transferred with a detailed chain of custody. Cannabis facilities are also under strict requirements when it comes to video monitoring. Cannabis security companies need to make sure that surveillance video is properly retained and that the cameras provide sufficient coverage of the facility. If you are interested in working in cannabis security or cannabis transportation, it is a good idea to read up on your state’s regulations so you know what clients need.

Do You Want to Work in the Cannabis Industry?

The cannabis industry has grown into a multi-billion-dollar global market, creating a wealth of job opportunities for individuals across various skill sets and backgrounds. Whether you’re interested in the science behind cannabis, passionate about customer service, or have a knack for marketing and compliance, there is likely a cannabis job that suits your skills and interests. As the industry continues to expand and evolve, so too will the array of rewarding careers it offers. So, if you’re looking for an exciting and growing field to build your career, the world of cannabis jobs might be just the place for you.

Sabine Downer
Author: Sabine Downer