Marijuana is legal for recreational use in several states now. Several years have gone by since Colorado and Washington simultaneously legalized marijuana for recreational use, and since then, millions of dollars in profits have been made by small businesses, and tens of thousands of jobs created. Despite some early opposition to the process, the economic gains have been clear.
Tax revenue has been the major selling point to local governments throughout the legalization effort. But there are also numerous other economical benefits to ending prohibition, including an influx of new jobs to the market. Keeping cannabis relegated to the black market meant that the profits from its sale, as well as those working to earn those profits, remained off the books. By bringing marijuana into the legal realm, however, we’re getting a better idea of how the market actually works.
And how much money is going in and out of it.
Opening up a new industry within the economy always brings enormous benefit, especially if that industry — like the marijuana industry – had long been operating in the shadows for so long, with an established consumer base. It’s not just the actual growing and sale of marijuana that brings in revenue and creates jobs; legal cannabis is an entire industry, requiring support staff and regulators as well. All of this means a big influx of employment opportunities for those in areas where legalization is in full swing.
What are these jobs? What do they pay, and how can you get one?
There is a multitude of opportunities, operating just about every function you can imagine. Many of these jobs had previously been available to those in the black market or medical industry only — available to a select few who qualified or willing to work outside of the law. Now, they are becoming mainstream and available to others. Some are lucrative. Others pay low wages.
Here are 16 jobs now being created by the legal marijuana industry, providing new opportunities and giving local economies a shot in the arm; Those that allow it, anyway.
1. Edible creator
Packaged marijuana edibles | Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images
Creating edibles might be a dream job for many. The variations in edibles is immense — a trip a retail shop or medical dispensary will leave most people in disbelief at how many options there are. If you can name it, there’s probably a marijuana-infused version of it.
Soda, oatmeal, baked goods, candy, coffee … the list goes on. Getting into edibles can be difficult, mainly due to its competitive nature. In some areas, every ingredient and levels of THC must be listed appropriately as well. Depending on where you live and your skill level, making edibles can be lucrative, but extremely difficult due to regulatory efforts of local lawmakers.
2. Concentrates processor
A processor creating cannabis concentrates | AFP/Getty Images
This is a field that requires considerable skill, and can also be potentially dangerous. Concentrates include things like hash oils, Rick Simpson oil, dabs and shatter, among others. These products are noted for their incredibly high concentration, which can have powerful effects and be very valuable to medical cannabis patients. The popularity of concentrates is growing rapidly, as vaporizers become more commonplace. As far as creating them, a background in chemistry is helpful, and experience with chemicals and laboratory equipment. Concentrates can be very lucrative, but like anything else, it’s getting more competitive by the day.
3. Glass merchant
Customers check out an assortment of pipes and glass |Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images
This is an industry that has been around for years, although it could never be officially targeted at cannabis users. Selling pipes, bongs, and more recently vaporizers is a business that is only expected to grow as prohibition falls across the country. Whether you can create your own devices by blowing glass, or decide that marketing and selling handheld vaporizers is a better plan, there will always be customers looking for peripherals to help them partake.
4. Courier and delivery
A bicycle courier | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Made popular by the medical marijuana community, the industry will soon be brimming with delivery and courier services, dropping off customer orders much like a pizza business. Many medical marijuana patients are unable to actually make it in to dispensary locations, so delivery became an attractive option. As retail locations open up, delivery options will most likely come along as well. Whether it be by bicycle or vehicle, couriers are sure to become a part of the lexicon in the near future. Pay is probably not great, but there is always the opportunity for tips!
A guard checks IDs at a marijuana store | Theo Stroomer/Getty Images
When retail locations started opening up, security was of paramount concern for many shop owners. While things have calmed down, most retail locations — and many medical dispensaries — have opted to keep security guards on staff. Checking IDs and guarding privacy for customers are the most visible duties, but ensuring that money and product transfers go off without a hitch is another important part of the job. There may be more opportunities for security work in urban locations, but as the industry kicks off, security will be important for storefronts in all environments.
A woman inspects marijuana buds | Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Talk about a dream position! Yes, there is a need for marijuana reviewers. Websites like Leafly and Wikileaf are becoming giant platforms for strain reviews and information, letting customers get in on the action on their Yelp-like platform. Strains can differ in a number of ways, not just the basic indica and sativa strains, but hybrids and specialty-bred strains can deliver a wide range of effects. For medical patients in need of high THC or CBD strains, reviews can be very valuable. Finding a way to become a strain reviewer would be difficult, but just like in any other industry, critics are needed.
Workers trim marijuana buds | Dan Callister/Getty Images
Marijuana doesn’t fall off the stem in those tight, dried little buds. There is a whole process — or art — to making the finished product look perfect for customer sale. Trimming, although incredibly tedious, can be attractive to many people. Essentially, the process entails taking buds from the plants and chopping off the larger leaves to leave an aesthetically pleasing product. This also helps cut down on excess weight, which ensures customers are getting the most for their money. The job doesn’t pay extremely well, but trimming is a job that needs to be done.
A marijuana tour operator talks to customers | Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
The tourism segment of the marijuana industry has yet to really take off, but there are companies out there trying. Essentially, tourism companies would bring in revenues by taking tourists out and giving an overview of the industry. From dropping by growing locations to going on a tour of retail and dispensary locations, these companies can really tailor their business models as the market sees fit. As the industry finds its footing, the tourism sector will grow up with it. Think of how there are currently winery tours and apply the same line of thinking to cannabis.
Managers run a marijuana store | Pool/Getty Images
From checking patients or customers in at the front door to ensuring shipments and accounts are all in order, administrative staff is essential. This could be a great opportunity for many professionals looking to get a fresh start in a new industry, especially for accountants, secretarial, and marketing specialists. At this point, the pay might be as good as in other industries, but that should only improve as time goes on.
Two women work as budtenders at a marijuana store | Chris Hondros/Getty Images
A budtender is exactly like a bartender, except for — you know — bud. A budtender assists customers at the counter by offering their sage advice and knowledge about different cannabis strains, concentrates, and edibles.
A budtender will help you make the perfect selection for the effect you’re looking for. The job requires rather extensive knowledge about the products being offered, as well as identifying any allergies or issues prospective customers may have. Pay for budtenders can really run the gamut, but just like a great bartender, a solid budtender can really make or break a business.
Holding a manicured bud | Chris Hondros/Getty Images
The role of regulators will vary quite a bit from state to state. In Washington, for example, the industry is regulated in a much tighter way than in Colorado. The laws can evolve over time, as over-regulation can have negative economical effects. But inspectors and regulatory staff are necessary — whether they work for local governments or law enforcement agencies. There should be lots of opportunities to get into regulatory agencies as legalization occurs in more states.
12. Web and software
A woman checks her smartphone | John Moore/Getty Images
As mentioned previously, companies like Leafly are blazing the trail into the online space when it comes to the marijuana industry. Other companies, like Viridian Sciences and Weedmaps, are making their own way. Software to help run marijuana businesses is essential and can include things like accounting programs and product management systems. Companies like Weedmaps and Leafly are there to assist cannabis users in finding the product they’re looking for and creating an online community. Companies like Sapling are growing cannabis companies by providing excellent dispensary marketing services.
13. Retail shop owner
A marijuana retail shop budtender | Chris Hondros/Getty Images
It’s the ultimate dream for many entrepreneurs — owning your own marijuana retail store! Actually getting the chance to open a store may be difficult enough, as in the case in Washington where licenses were offered to a select few through a lottery system. But as the industry opens up, the opportunity to actually open a retail location will be available to almost anyone who wants to take a shot. Of course, this comes with the necessary business and entrepreneurial prowess that any operation requires, as well as the support staff and suppliers. Opening a store is risky, but in a brand new industry, it could be the perfect opportunity to live out your entrepreneurial dreams.
An indoor marijuana grow operation | Chris Hondros/Getty Images
That’s right, the world needs farmers. Pot farmers, that is. Where do you think all of this marijuana is coming from, anyway? Well, many people have been growing for years, whether it was under medical protection or otherwise, and have developed techniques to cultivate the perfect product.
Growing marijuana can be time consuming and expensive, and also requires a lot of skill. Similar to opening up a retail location, growing can be risky. There are things like temperature control, space, pests, and seemingly a thousand other issues that can arise, and then finding a place to sell your product can also create issues. But for those who always wanted a chance to be a marijuana farmer, the time is quickly approaching — if it hasn’t yet arrived.
15. Seed harvester
Seed growers at a marijuana farmer’s market | Robyn Beck/Getty Images
Harvesting and selling seeds can go hand-in-hand with being a farmer, but is a bit more specialized. Selling seeds often requires jumping through legal loopholes, but it can be done. Seeds and clones — which are, in a way, infant plants — do have a big market. But in certain places, growing marijuana on your own without a license is illegal. Depending on where you live, selling seeds and clones could be a great business decision — or a terrible one.
A cannabis consultant meets with clients | Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Consultants. Every industry has them, and they can provide some very valuable insight. For growing specialists who don’t want a farm of their own, consulting can be very lucrative. Also, consultants can help entrepreneurs get their businesses off the launching pad, and also help identify areas for growth and expansion. Marketing consultants can also assist cannabis startups get their brands off the ground, and create a real identity for many businesses in the industry. Consulting requires a great deal of specialized knowledge but could be an excellent opportunity for those who are qualified.