29 Awesome Cannabis Jobs in the Fast-Growing Legal Weed Industry
It's been described as a new green revolution: Thanks to legalized cannabis, jobs that never existed before are being created in huge numbers. Passionate people from all backgrounds are getting in on the action, eager to contribute their talents to a young industry that they truly believe in.
Whether you call it weed, pot, ganja, cannabis, or Mary Jane, the marijuana plant is quickly becoming a more effective and socially acceptable driver of good career opportunities. That's why, with cannabis companies launching and growing at a rapid rate, now is an amazing time to pursue marijuana jobs that offer the potential for better pay and faster-than-normal advancement.
Yes, cannabis is still a banned substance at the federal level in America. However, as of October 2019, medical marijuana is legal and regulated in more than 30 U.S. states. And in 11 of those states, recreational marijuana is also legal and regulated.1 Plus, in Canada—where medical cannabis has been legal for several years—recreational cannabis became legal and regulated in 2018. So there is growing pressure on the U.S. federal government to follow suit. Will it ever happen? Maybe, eventually. In the meantime, many people are prospering from state-level cannabis legalization.
Across America, the state-legalized marijuana industry already provides work for as many as 215,000 people. Projections indicate that by 2023, that number could rise as high as 475,000.2 And between 2018 and 2025, the U.S. market for legal marijuana could grow by a whopping 122.5 percent to become worth more than $24 billion.3 That could result in the legal cannabis sector supporting the employment of more people than America's manufacturing industry.
So if you want a fresh alternative to the standard job options, then consider pursuing a cannabis career. You can work directly with cannabis in areas of the industry such as growing, extraction, edibles production, packaging, delivery, or dispensing. Or you can do a job that helps support the industry without ever having direct contact with marijuana. In fact, you can qualify for some very cool cannabis-related opportunities if you have training or experience in areas such as business, marketing, design, technology, the culinary arts, legal support, law enforcement, or certain skilled trades like HVAC technology, carpentry, or electrical work.
Simply put, when it comes to the legal cannabis industry, jobs are available for many different kinds of workers, professionals, and tradespeople. Some people even choose the path of entrepreneurship by starting their own marijuana-related companies (an option that comes with a lot of risk but also a lot of financial rewards if they succeed).
The following examples of marijuana careers only scratch the surface of what you may run across. But this article covers several of the best and most widespread opportunities. You'll also learn how to find and gain employment in this exciting new industry.
- 11 jobs that involve working directly with cannabis
- 18 jobs that support the legal marijuana industry
- 5 essential tips for finding cannabis jobs and getting hired
11 Jobs That Involve Working Directly With Cannabis
Do you like the thought of getting paid to work with legal weed? Jobs in this category allow you to be around some form of cannabis every day. Your direct, hands-on work can help this revolutionary industry keep moving forward. And since most of today's marijuana businesses are still relatively young, you may be able to get quick promotions. (Some workers in the industry have reported advancing from entry-level roles to supervisory or managerial positions within three years or less.)
A few of these careers require very specific skill sets and high-end credentials. Others can be started with little or no experience. Regardless, you may need to obtain a special state license, permit, or badge that allows you to work with marijuana or its derivatives, so be sure to check the requirements in your particular state. Keep in mind that medical marijuana (MMJ) jobs sometimes have stricter licensing requirements than jobs that only involve recreational cannabis.
The salary ranges for the following 11 jobs are just estimates (for full-time work). They are based on an extensive review of postings on several online job boards since hard data about cannabis-industry salaries and wages is not yet available.
1. Master Extractor—$80K to $250K+
When it comes to high-paying medical marijuana careers, it's hard to beat this one. Master extractors usually get paid so well because they have a very rare combination of expertise. Their job involves overseeing the production of safe and effective oils and concentrates from harvested marijuana plants. They accurately extract precise amounts of THC and/or CBD (the main active components of cannabis). They also manage their laboratory facilities and adhere to strict safety standards and government regulations. So in order to get into this career, you generally need a PhD in biochemistry as well as some engineering expertise.
2. Master Grower—$50K to $120K+
Without the reliable cultivation of healthy marijuana plants, there can be no cannabis industry. That's why the specialists who manage big grow operations are often paid handsomely for their work. Planting, cloning, crop nutrition, pest management, grow-house technology, and staffing are all factors that need to be overseen by a master cannabis grower. Jobs of this type also frequently require interaction with law enforcement and compliance inspectors. But when they do their jobs well, many master growers receive large bonuses or a cut of the profits in addition to their good salaries. Most people with this career have a background in botany or horticulture as well as plenty of experience with the cultivation of cannabis.
3. Marijuana Tester or Quality-Control Inspector—$50K to $100K+
This kind of cannabis professional helps ensure that marijuana products comply with health, safety, and potency standards. They can work for cannabis companies or government departments or agencies. In some cases, they may help inspect and enforce marijuana cultivation laws and regulations (including those that apply to the use of pesticides). You may need a PhD in a related scientific field such as biology, agronomy, chemistry, or entomology in order to get a marijuana tester job like this.
4. Edibles Chef—$40K to $90K+
People who've had culinary arts training can pursue this avenue of marijuana employment. Companies that produce edible cannabis products need skilled chefs and pastry artists to develop, create, and help oversee the production of various food items. Marijuana or marijuana extracts can be infused into candies, chocolates, baked treats, soda, coffee, tea, and all kinds of other edible products at very precise doses.
5. Dispensary Manager—$40K to $75K+
Marijuana dispensaries represent a huge portion of the cannabis industry. Like other kinds of stores, they are complex retail operations that require good management. That's why a lot of dispensary owners actively recruit experienced retail professionals from high-end apparel stores and other types of quality retail outlets. Some medical marijuana dispensary owners also seek people with a background in pharmacology. In addition to a good salary, managers often get performance bonuses, health insurance, and paid vacation time. Dispensary careers like this can also lead to advanced opportunities that come with six-figure salaries and involve overseeing multiple stores.
6. Extraction Technician—$27K to $43K+
Marijuana extraction techs generally work under the supervision of a master extractor. They are the ones who operate the sophisticated equipment that produces high-quality oils and concentrates (like shatter) from marijuana plants. They are also frequently tasked with controlling laboratory inventory and ensuring that work areas stay safe and clean. Employers typically prefer candidates who have some kind of science education.
7. Budtender—$21K to $40K+
Are you a people person? Budtender jobs involve helping dispensary customers choose the best strains of cannabis for their particular needs. It's a role that requires good listening, sales, and customer service skills. It also requires knowing the differences between sativa, indica, and hybrid strains and understanding how different levels or combinations of THC and CBD might affect someone. Like fine wine, different strains of Mary Jane also have their own flavor and aroma profiles. So, in some respects, the job can be similar to bartending or being a sommelier. That's why people who regularly purchase medical or recreational marijuana from licensed dispensaries often develop a friendly rapport with their budtenders. In addition to good hourly wages, a lot of budtenders earn tips.
8. Dispensary Receptionist or Cashier—$20K to $37K+
Many cannabis dispensaries hire people for the front end of their stores to greet customers, answer phone calls, and handle final sales transactions. At medical marijuana dispensaries, workers in this role are also frequently responsible for verifying customers' prescriptions, identification, and eligibility for making purchases. It's an entry-level role, but good employees often get promoted to more advanced dispensary jobs relatively quickly.
9. Marijuana Courier—$19K to $35K+
Medical marijuana jobs that involve delivering products to customers' homes can keep you physically active, especially if a bicycle is your method of transportation. Of course, delivery drivers are also common. In addition to (or instead of) an hourly wage, some cannabis dispensaries pay sales commissions to their couriers. You can also earn good tips.
10. Trimmer, Harvester, or Cultivator—$17K to $41K+
Weed-trimming jobs are probably the most common entry-level opportunities in the cannabis industry. They involve removing buds from the stems of harvested marijuana plants and trimming off the largest leaves on those buds so that they have good visual appeal. This job requires speed, precision, and a careful approach that minimizes waste. Trimmed buds get sorted, weighed, and dried in preparation for sale at dispensaries. Bud-trimming positions have become the most popular marijuana jobs in Colorado (and some other states) for people who might otherwise work as lower-paid cooks or dishwashers in the restaurant industry.
Entry-level harvesting and cultivation jobs are closely related to trimming positions. They involve helping growers gather or take care of cannabis crops in a grow-house or on a marijuana farm. Jobs of this kind tend to be rather physical in nature. But people who enjoy gardening or landscaping are often a good fit for these types of marijuana jobs. California will continue to have some of the best growing-related positions thanks to its great year-round climate.
11. Marijuana or Edibles Packager—$17K to $40K+
Like marijuana trimming jobs, packaging positions are often good routes into the cannabis industry. They simply involve safely and efficiently packaging cannabis or cannabis-infused products for distribution and sale. After a little experience, you can often move into a more advanced role.
18 Jobs That Support the Legal Marijuana Industry
Just like other industries, the cannabis industry generates a lot of jobs that don't involve working directly with the main product being sold. So you can benefit from the new opportunities being created without handling any weed. That said, some cannabis-related tech companies in states like Colorado and California are known to allow their employees to consume pot while on the job. (It's a perk that varies from employer to employer, so it isn't something you can count on.)
As the following examples prove, jobs in the marijuana industry are just as diverse as what you'll find in any other sector. And you don't necessarily need cannabis-related knowledge or skills, although they can help. You just need any kind of marketable skills or expertise that can assist a marijuana-related company with some aspect of its business.
The possibilities are endless, but you should definitely explore the 18 career options below. Each salary range is based on national data from May 2018 for full-time workers in that occupation (across all industries).4
1. IT Manager—$85K to $208K+
A lot of marijuana companies make use of advanced information technologies in order to run their operations as efficiently as possible. From sales-tracking software to sophisticated systems for growing facilities, technology is often what helps companies remain compliant with government laws and regulations. IT managers oversee the procurement, implementation, and maintenance of that technology.
2. Marketing Director—$70K to $208K+
Do you want to help develop, launch, or expand an exciting cannabis brand? Every marijuana company needs effective marketing strategies in order to have both short- and long-term success. Market research, advertising, customer engagement, and public relations are all vital areas that require talented professionals.
3. Human Resources Manager—$67K to $201K+
Staffing is a major aspect of running any kind of business. But for cannabis companies, finding and retaining great employees is an especially important endeavor. After all, in this young industry, many workers begin at one company and move quickly to a different company in order to take advantage of better opportunities or try different roles. Pay, benefits, and workplace culture are all elements that need to be smartly overseen by specialists in human resources.
4. Production Manager—$63K to $172K+
From seed to sale, the whole cycle of a marijuana product's creation and distribution needs to be properly managed. That's why people with a project management or business management background are often sought by marijuana companies. They need professionals who can help plan and oversee budgets, operations, and timelines.
5. Software Developer—$62K to $167K+
Some cannabis-related companies create their own custom software to deal with particular areas of their operations. In fact, a lot of tech start-ups in this industry are completely based on the unique apps or system software that they've developed themselves in order to solve industry problems or improve upon existing ways of doing things.
6. Lawyer—$58K to $208K+
It goes without saying that the cannabis industry operates in a tricky legal area. Between the U.S. federal prohibition of marijuana, constantly changing state laws, and complex regulations, it's essential for cannabis companies to operate on solid legal advice. Marijuana advocacy organizations also need help with drafting proposed legislation and challenging state and federal prohibitions.
7. Accountant—$44K to $123K+
Marijuana ventures attract increased scrutiny from regulators, so keeping accurate financial records is vital. Plus, companies in this industry have a slew of unique challenges to deal with when it comes to managing their cash, obtaining credit, handling taxes, and processing payments. So accounting expertise is a must.
8. Web Developer—$38K to $124K+
As with any other kind of business today, having a dynamic website is crucial for most cannabis companies. So talented web developers are in pretty high demand within this burgeoning industry.
9. Digital Media Manager—$34K to $112K+
This type of public relations specialist uses email, custom apps, social media, or other web-based platforms to interact with potential and existing customers. It's a fun role that usually exists as part of a marijuana company's marketing strategy. Internet marketing, communications, and digital media design are all good educational paths for this career.
10. Electrician—$33K to $95K+
Indoor marijuana grow operations require special lighting and electrical needs. That's why qualified electricians are often in demand where cannabis producers are constructing new grow houses or adding to the ones they already have.
11. Paralegal—$31K to $82K+
Starting and operating a legitimate cannabis company requires overcoming a lot of legal hurdles and filing a lot of complex paperwork. So in addition to lawyers, paralegal professionals help ease that burden.
12. Writer—$32K to $122K+
Every company website needs engaging copy. And many cannabis producers, dispensaries, and edibles manufacturers like to promote their brands through creatively written content on their own blogs. There are also many marijuana-themed magazines and online publications that you can pitch story ideas to.
13. Sales Representative—$26K to $157K+
Marijuana growers and edibles manufacturers need to forge profitable relationships with stores and dispensaries that will carry their products. So a lot of them hire business-to-business sales reps to make deals with licensed buyers that will pay a fair price for their goods and follow cannabis regulations just as strictly as they do.
14. Graphic Designer—$30K to $86K+
The visual promotion of marijuana brands is often vital to their success. That's why the industry is starting to employ a lot of graphic designers who know how to create attractive, distinctive, and effective logos, product labels, website interfaces, and other essential marketing and advertising materials.
15. HVAC Technician—$29K to $76K+
Like electricians, tradespeople who specialize in heating, cooling, and ventilation are frequently in demand by marijuana companies that are constructing or expanding their indoor grow operations.
16. Real Estate Agent—$25K to $113K+
Marijuana businesses often have very particular requirements when it comes to the buildings and facilities they can operate in. For instance, indoor grow operations require a lot of physical space that can handle special ventilation and lighting systems that you wouldn't necessarily find in other types of industrial operations. But it can be a real challenge to find pre-existing buildings that can accommodate those needs. That's why some real estate agents now specialize in providing service to cannabis entrepreneurs.
17. Executive or Administrative Assistant—$37K to $89K+
Every business has administrative tasks that need to be handled in a timely and efficient manner. Cannabis businesses are no different. From simple bookkeeping to general office management, there's never a shortage of administrative work to be done.
18. Security Guard—$20K to $50K+
Despite the legalization of marijuana in several states, security is still a major issue for companies that choose to operate in this industry. Because of its value, marijuana is a target for thieves. But so is cash. Since cannabis businesses generally can't open federally insured bank accounts, they operate as cash-only businesses. That means they often store their cash earnings in their own safes and must transport large amounts of cash between different locations. So people with law enforcement training are highly valued by the cannabis industry. Security-related opportunities are available with dispensaries, growers, edibles manufacturers, armed courier services, and surveillance companies.
5 Essential Tips for Finding Cannabis Jobs and Getting Hired
Are you a user of marijuana? Don't worry if you aren't. For most positions, you don't need any firsthand experience with consuming weed. After all, you won't be expected to consume cannabis on the job. Your professional skills and demeanor are what really matter. In fact, most employers in the cannabis industry actively screen out obvious stoners.
Also, keep in mind that the marijuana job market is fairly competitive. Since only about two-thirds of states have legalized cannabis in some form, many job seekers are moving away from states where pot is still illegal so that they can try taking advantage of the new opportunities. (The market can be especially competitive in states where recreational marijuana has been legalized, such as Colorado, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Alaska, Illinois, Michigan, Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont.) That makes the following tips even more important to follow.
1. Research potential employers and job opportunities.
This step may seem obvious, but few people spend as much time on it as they should. Are you really willing to work for just anybody in the cannabis industry? Why not put in the effort to match your goals and personality with a company that shares your values? (Your work colleagues will be like your other family, especially in a small company.) What do you believe in? What do the companies you're thinking of joining believe in? (For instance, are they just all about making money, or do they genuinely want to help make the world a better place through their cannabis-related products or services?)
Start attending some of the marijuana industry's major conferences and trade shows in your state. Get to know the various company representatives. Ask lots of questions. Find out what the culture is like at their companies and what they look for in the people they hire. Take notes and follow up with some simple emails to thank them for sharing that information. If any of the companies sound like a good place to work, be sure to let their representatives know that you're looking for opportunities in the marijuana industry and would be interested in joining their team.
Check out other potential employers by exploring the online postings on more than one cannabis job board. There are now several websites and staffing firms dedicated to helping job seekers find opportunities in the legal marijuana industry. Here are some popular examples:
2. Review your current strengths and qualifications.
What kind of skills do you already have? What's your educational background? Do you want to continue using your existing expertise, or do you want to do something completely different? Decide up front what kind of job you'd like to have in the cannabis industry.
Often, the best way to transition into the legal marijuana sector is to look for jobs that will utilize your current skill set. For instance, if you have a strong customer service background, then budtender jobs would be worth considering. Or if your background is in marketing, then you can probably find the same kind of work, but in a more exciting industry.
Remember: While the marijuana industry is still young, few people will have much, if any, experience in a cannabis-related role when applying for jobs. So the most important thing is to be able to show how your current abilities match up with the position you'd like to have. Cannabis companies are hiring skilled professionals from all kinds of non-cannabis industries.
3. Expand your cannabis-related knowledge.
This is how you can gain a competitive edge in the cannabis job market. The more you know about the current laws, regulations, and challenges of the marijuana industry in your state, the more appealing you will be to potential employers. After all, marijuana companies need to stay super-vigilant about complying with the law if they want their businesses to succeed and grow. And, of course, the more you know about cannabis itself, the better you'll be able to communicate with colleagues and customers.
So start learning all you can about marijuana. You may be able to find courses that will teach you about the industry and applicable laws in your state. Certain courses may even lead to industry-recognized certification. You can also do plenty of reading on your own. Check out websites and blogs such as NORML and Canna Law Blog. And read books like:
- The Little Black Book of Marijuana: The Essential Guide to the World of Cannabis by Steve Elliott
- The Cannabis Manifesto: A New Paradigm for Wellness by Steve DeAngelo
- Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana—Medical, Recreational and Scientific by Martin A. Lee
- The Cannabis Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to Cultivation & Consumption of Medical Marijuana by Jorge Cervantes
- Big Weed: An Entrepreneur's High-Stakes Adventures in the Budding Legal Marijuana Business by Christian Hageseth and Joseph D'Agnese
- Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana by Michael Backes
4. Get a marijuana worker license (if necessary).
Each state with legalized marijuana has its own laws and regulations. As someone who wants to work in this industry, you need to find out what may be required of you. Potential employers will also appreciate it if you have the proper license, permit, or badge to work around cannabis—before you apply for jobs with them. Check out the current marijuana employment requirements for the state or region you want to work in:
5. Present yourself as a professional, not a stoner.
Most cannabis companies are, understandably, very conscious of maintaining a good public image. They don't want to invite negative stereotypes about their businesses (such as being called "lazy hippies" or "dirty drug dealers"). That means you need to look and act like a professional at all times. If you're too casually dressed or talk a lot about getting high, then recruiters and potential employers are likely to write you off as unqualified for their opportunities. (You may even want to lose the dreadlocks if you have them.)
When you write your résumé and cover letters, always try to use the same type of verbiage that the companies you're applying to use. Avoid using slang terms. Always use proper grammar. And always proofread everything at least twice before submitting it. Focus on describing how your skills will help the company, not on how much experience you have with getting stoned from pot.
Also, make sure you know how to ace a job interview. In addition to looking professional, you need to demonstrate some genuine enthusiasm for the position and knowledge about the company you're seeking to join. Showing up with a curious mindset is also important. Always be prepared to ask a few good questions at the end of the interview. And don't forget to follow up soon after with a sincere thank-you email to everyone who interviewed you.
Seize This Amazing New Opportunity
Cannabis jobs will keep growing in number. Do you have the skills and education you need for the career you want in the marijuana industry? Remember: You don't necessarily need to work directly with cannabis in order to prosper from good employment in this sector. Why not get training in an area you really enjoy and then apply your new skills to a marijuana job? Find convenient career-driven training in your area right now by entering your zip code in the school finder below!
1 Governing, "State Marijuana Laws in 2019 Map," website last visited on October 28, 2019.
2 Marijuana Business Daily, "Chart: US cannabis employment to jump 34% in 2019 thanks to California, growth in new markets," website last visited on October 28, 2019.
3 Statista, "U.S. Marijuana Market: The Grass Is Getting Greener," website last visited on October 28, 2019.
4 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on October 28, 2019.