Marijuana Industry Jobs are in high demand. According to the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED), as of June 1, 2016 there were 2,691 licensed marijuana businesses in Colorado representing approximately 18,000 jobs. The first quarter sales of marijuana in Colorado alone exceeded $270 million. That’s a lot of job opportunities in this new and booming industry. Could one of them be right for you?
While Colorado is leading the way, other states are also creating marijuana industry jobs, albeit to a lesser degree. For example, the state of Maryland is currently developing their medical marijuana regulations, which contemplate 2 dispensaries for each of the state’s 47 legislative districts. This will result in approximately 750 jobs without even considering the added employment in grow-houses, concentrate manufacturers, laboratories, and traditional support activities. To date, 25 states have legalized medical marijuana. Four states, plus the District of Columbia (DC), have legalized recreational marijuana.
As with all industries, there are a variety of different jobs to consider. Many people think of growing, cultivating, and harvesting the plants, while others consider working in a dispensary or retail shop. However, there are also “traditional” job opportunities. For example, accounting, marketing, information technology, distribution, regulatory compliance, security, staffing, and even tour operator jobs are all available within or supporting the industry.
With so many new marijuana industry jobs being created across the country, it seems as if it would be easy to land one of them, but not necessarily.
While the Marijuana Industry has been making great strides, both medical and retail marijuana remains illegal in 25 states, so millions of people would have to uproot and move to land a marijuana job. In addition, the competition can be fierce. It is not at all uncommon for dozens of applicants to apply for a single marijuana job. In fact today, that is the norm. So how does an individual stand out in the crowd?
Most of the hurdles to getting hired in the Marijuana Industry are exactly the same as those encountered when trying to get hired into any other professional job. Simply put, “Employers want, what you would want, if you were the person doing the hiring.” They look for applicants who can demonstrate:
- Dependability – It all starts with showing up on time.
- Team players – People who get along in a group.
- Cool under pressure – No “Chicken Littles.” Employers want people who rise to the occasion.
- Friendly – Particularly with roles that face the public.
- Knowledgeable in their role – Sharp and easy to train.
- Business Minded – Engaged in the overall success of the business.
It can be difficult to show these traits with just your resume and cover letter. It’s often even difficult to show them when you are lucky enough to get an interview. And while your references may prove that you have what the employer is looking for, references won’t do you any good if you can’t get to the final cut of applicants.
The value of networking:
According to various news services and job placement experts, networking accounts for anywhere between 40 and 80% of today’s job placement. While this is a wide range, suffice to say that networking should be a big part of your job search.
Companies usually prefer to fill positions from within and when there is no candidate available they often ask for referrals from current employees. Companies where I have worked have even given bonuses for referrals that result in job placement. What this means is that many positions are filled before being posted outside the company. To be in contention for these jobs you need to network.
The idea is that you may have a friend, or a friend of a friend, who is working in one of your target companies. So it makes sense to use your social networks, like Facebook and LinkedIn, to identify these connections. You should also look for opportunities to meet with people who are already working in the industry. Don’t be shy about your intention. Ask them for help. Most people love to talk about their work and are only too happy to give advice.
How to differentiate yourself through training:
Because the Marijuana Industry is in its infancy, most job candidates will not have direct experience. This leads to the age old conundrum, “No one will hire you because you don’t have experience, so how do you get experience if no one will hire you?” This is made even more difficult in the marijuana industry. For many, the only direct experience an individual may have would be admitting to illegal activity and this should never be mentioned in the placement process. So what’s a person to do?
If you are looking for marijuana industry jobs, and don’t have experience to share, the next best thing is to seek out training. For the purpose of this post I will divide training into two categories – Product Knowledge and Regulatory Knowledge.
Product knowledge is very important to perspective employers and luckily there are volumes of information that are readily available to anyone wanting to increase their understanding of cannabis and the industry.
There are numerous books, YouTube videos, and publicly available courses that will give you a quick understanding of the various strains of cannabis, the Endocannabinoid System and the effects marijuana has on the body, and much more. There is even a college level course on Cannabis Journalism, being taught at the University of Denver.
There are also online “TV” shows, articles, and podcasts to bolster your cannabis education. I highly recommend tapping into these various channels of marijuana media.
For example, The Cannabist, is the Denver Post’s home for ideas, people, art, food, and news, centered around the culture of cannabis. It may be found at www.TheCannabist.com. The Post’s Marijuana editor, Ricardo Baca, interviews Marijuana entrepreneurs, advocates, and thought leaders from across the US. These include experts and authorities as diverse as edible manufacturers and tour operators to the director of the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED). In addition to being excellent sources of product knowledge, these media sources also discuss which companies are expanding their operations in Colorado and beyond. This information alone could give you an edge in finding new jobs before they are even posted.
One of the best ways to move ahead of the pack is to become certified by taking a regulatory focused course. For example, in Colorado, many marijuana employers have chosen to take part in the states Responsible Vendor program. The program itself is voluntary. However, Medical Marijuana Centers and Retail Marijuana Store owners who elect to participate in the program will be awarded a MED Certified “Responsible Vendor” designation.
The designation reflects a commitment on the part of the marijuana business owner to operate at the highest level of customer safety and care through the promotion of uniform state-wide safety, security, integrity, and transparency standards. As a job seeking candidate, the training will provide you with a well rounded introduction into Colorado’s Cannabis Industry and therefore better assurances of your future workplace success.
There are many areas of expertise to consider when searching for marijuana related training opportunities within the industry and across the states. The cost of training is relatively inexpensive, generally between $150 and $500, which is nominal when considered against the value of landing the job.
As a job seeker, it’s a good idea to participate in training before starting the interview process because the training will give you a leg up in several important ways.
- The training will give you instant credibility and will help to fill the void if you have no industry experience.
- The better programs provide handouts that can be used as study guides to prepare for some of the more complicated areas of marijuana law that will likely be asked in interviews.
- Actually participating in the training shows perspective employers that you have initiative and are committed to working in the industry.
- You will gain important knowledge on the rules, regulations, and culture within your state making you a more qualified candidate.
There is one more very important advantage to obtaining your training prior to interviewing. It is well known that not all marijuana shops and companies are created equal. If at all possible, you want to land a job with a progressive company that truly values their employees as their number one asset. These are companies that value and seek out well trained and qualified individuals. These companies tend to focus on the big picture (as opposed to short term success). They are less likely to have business and regulatory problems. And, they are quite often simply the better companies to work for within the industry.
Finally, everything you have learned about landing a job outside of the Marijuana Industry applies within the industry:
- Do some homework on the perspective employer.
- Tailor your resume and cover letter to the company.
- Maintain a neat and clean appearance, firm handshake, eye contact, and be professional during the interview.
- Be prepared to ask good and relevant questions.
- Follow-up with a thank you letter or email after the interview.
While it is true that the Marijuana Industry generally has its own uniquely progressive culture, at the end of the day, the people running it are business men and women who are looking for professional talent to help them succeed. If you keep this in mind, it will increase your chances of finding your way into this new and fast growing multi-billion dollar US industry.