The growing acceptability of marijuana in America, from medical use in 19 states to outright legalization in four, has opened new doors for job seekers as the national economy bounces back from depression. Opportunities in the cannabis industry have expanded the employment market, with new takes on old job descriptions. New vocations are being created, and old jobs are resurfacing, particularly in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia where voters have made recreational use legal for adults. Entrepreneurship and employment aren’t lost on those seeking to exploit the opportunity. Even colleges have created classes around the burgeoning industry. The Cheat Sheet website recently listed 16 jobs being impacted by marijuana. Many sound familiar to entrepreneurs, those with special education, or who are looking to legitimize their “hobby.” The positions are:
- Edible creator: Cooking with cannabis could be huge.
- Concentrates processor: A background in chemistry will help.
- Glass merchants: The business of selling bongs, pipes and vaporizers.
- Courier and delivery: Maybe as easy as ordering pizza.
- Security: Among other things, ensuring safe money and product transfers.
- Reviewers/critics: Not all pot is created equal; some patients need direction to certain strains.
- Trimmers: Preventing overgrowth, taking buds from the plants.
- Tourism: Think Napa wine tours.
- Administration: A business essential, including accountants, secretarial and marketing.
- Budtender: Instead of bartender, assists customers and offers advice about products being offered.
- Regulators: Inspectors and regulatory staff.
- Web and software: Online assistance, and programmers to track pot from seed to sale—per state law.
- Retail shop owner: Or maybe you’d prefer to run a juice bar?
- Farmer: It can be time-consuming and requires a lot of skill.
- Seed harvester: More specialized than being a farmer, selling seeds means jumping through legal loopholes.
- Consultants: Requires specialized knowledge but could be useful for growers and entrepreneurs.
Finding a job in the marijuana industry is a bit like the regular job market, where talent helps—certainly in specialized fields—as does networking. Have a specific in-demand skill, volunteer for marijuana advocacy groups (proof you’re committed to the cause), or have “a whole bunch of money” and buy into a marijuana business. How much money? The Cannabis Business Exchange recently listed a turnkey Denver marijuana license and warehouse for $750,000—plants not included.
Blue Collar Jobs Get a Bump
While it may take a special skill to be a budtender, legalization has impacted more traditional blue collar work as well. In Colorado, there was a rise in the need for construction of steel buildings to be used as grow houses, which created a significant number of jobs, according to Inc. Another job skill that has been affected is that of electrician. They are being used to wire circuits and electricity in previously empty warehouses that have been converted to grow houses. There’s enormous potential, given that only Colorado and Washington have any kind of track record with adult use marijuana, and less than half the states have OK’d medical marijuana use. ArcView Market Research, a cannabis-industry research and investment firm, reported nationwide legal marijuana wholesale and retail sales in 2014 grew to $2.7 billion, a 74-percent increase over 2013’s $1.5 billion. The ArcView report called the marijuana industry the fastest-growing in the nation and forecast $11 billion in sales by 2019, which would make it a higher-performing cash crop than rice, cotton, sorghum and hay. With a year of operations behind it, Colorado is where most look for proof of concept. According to ArcView, the state recorded $315 million in adult use sales, $805 million when including medical sales. Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown, who voted against Amendment 64 legalizing pot, estimated there were 900 existing or pending businesses within the first four months of legalization. “The recreational marijuana industry certainly has improved the economy,” he told Inc. Additionally, the run on real estate has impacted one previously rundown area on Denver’s south Broadway, a major business district. The pot shops moved in, attracted additional businesses and the end result was a refurbishing of the area. That’s more jobs in construction.
The McDonald’s of Marijuana
Marijuana, it turns out, isn’t just for smoking. Edibles may have the most growth potential in the industry. Expect to see cannabis cookbooks soon, such as “Sweet Mary Jane: 75 Delicious Cannabis-Infused High-End Desserts” and “Herb: Mastering the Art of Cooking With Cannabis. The New York Times reports Colorado issued more than 160 edible marijuana licenses and that “skilled line cooks are leaving respected restaurants to take more lucrative jobs infusing cannabis into food and drinks.” In Seattle, there is a large cannabis bakery dedicated to affluent customers, and a company called Magical Butter, whose food trucks sell marijuana-infused dishes. The king of cannabis edibles may turn out to be Dixie Elixirs and Edibles in Denver, which is poised to become the ConAgra of the industry. It is already a major marijuana player in Colorado, has incorporated in Delaware and is in the process of gaining a foothold in six other states. Last September, the company moved into a 30,000 square foot facility in Denver, tripling its size. Chief marketing officer Joe Hodas told the Denver Business Journal that it has about 40 employees, some of whom are temporary or contract workers, but could grow to 80 to 100. According to its website, Dixie’s THC-infused creations range from balms to bath soaks to tinctures and truffles. But its top-selling product is its soda pop, in 40-mg and 75-mg strengths. Watermelon Cream, anyone? Mandarin Orange? Dixie has three types of chocolate candies (bar, rolls, truffles), and mints and tinctures whose flavors would inspire any kid with candy store dreams. Capsules, vape oil and an inhalant called Dixie Dust go without saying. Companies such as Magical Butter and Dixie are entrepreneurial endeavors helping reshape the landscape, and sure to be copied in the future.