Although cannabis remains illegal on the federal level, 33 states now allow its sale at least for medical purposes. Ten of them, including California, have legalized recreational use. And as new markets open and capital continues to flood in, the cannabis industry has become, by some measures, one of the country’s fastest-growing job sectors.
The jobs range from hourly work at farms and stores to executive positions. They also span the country. Columbia Care, a medical cannabis company that is based in New York and has 500 employees, has indoor farms and manufacturing plants in Massachusetts, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Arizona and the District of Columbia.
It’s hard to know exactly how many jobs there are in the legal cannabis business. The United States Labor Department collects data from cannabis farms and retailers, but does not provide figures for the industry. Still, listings for cannabis-related positions have rocketed to the top echelon of the fastest-growing-job categories on sites like Indeed and ZipRecruiter.
Julia Pollak, a labor economist at ZipRecruiter, said the company’s data put the number of cannabis jobs nationwide at 200,000 to 300,000. Most of those jobs are on the lower end of the pay scale, consisting of rote agricultural work like plant trimming ($10 to $15 an hour) and “budtenders” (about $25,000 a year), who help customers decide what kind of cannabis they want and then weigh and bag it.
But as the industry expands, there has also been a strong demand for better-paid positions like chemists, software engineers, and nurses who consult with patients about using cannabis for anxiety and other medical conditions. “The early signs are that this will grow rapidly,” Ms. Pollak said….
The pioneers who brought the industry out of the shadows are being joined by professional managers and executives — “talent,” in corporate speak — who have had careers in other industries. For upper-level managers and executives, companies say they prefer candidates with a background in highly regulated industries like alcohol or pharmaceuticals….
After a decade in pharmaceutical marketing at companies including Gilead Sciences, Julie Raque recently became the vice president for marketing at Cannabistry Labs, a cannabis research and testing company in Chicago. She was intrigued by the industry and eager to join a start-up, but had to take a pay cut in exchange for company stock — and to accept that her decision might be a one-way door. “I highly doubt companies would want to hire me back,” she said. “I knew I was about to do something big, and since then I’ve not looked back, because I’m having so much fun.”