They say that a rising tide lifts all boats. This has proven especially true in today’s booming cannabis industry. Legalization in the U.S. has had a staggering effect on national and state economies: national legal sales reached $5.4 billion in 2015 and are projected to hit $7.1 billion in 2016. This explosion has necessarily resulted in a flood of jobs — many of them previously unheard of — in ancillary cannabis businesses. One source estimates that at least 100,000 people are employed in weed-related jobs as of July 2016, and that figure is only expected to grow as more and more states move towards legalization. So how can you take advantage of this unprecedented job market? Here’s a look of some of the new cannabis jobs you might want to pursue:
Looking to reconnect with nature and stake a claim to the forgotten art of farming? Grab yourself a commercial license and start growing in a state that permits large-scale cultivation of weed (namely, Alaska, Colorado, Washington, and most states that have legalized medical use). Whether you’re looking to start your own commercial operation or pitch in on an existing farm, be warned that the cultivation of cannabis is notoriously difficult. Despite the “weed” moniker, the plant is fickle, and requires meticulous control of growing variables like soil, sunlight, temperature, pH, and moisture in order to yield valuable, top-quality flowers. To maintain these conditions, a lot of expensive equipment also comes into play. Finally, when crops are harvested, huge profits aren’t necessarily guaranteed — as cannabis farms proliferate, they have become increasingly competitive in terms of pricing. All that said, running a grow operation can be extremely rewarding, granting a hands-on experience of a process that many people never even consider. If you’d like to get a feel for what cannabis farming is like, specialized message boards and organizations like WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) match volunteers up with commercial farms that provide room and board in exchange for manual labor.
Craft mixology has already passed peak absurdity, with boutique cocktail bars a dime a dozen in many urban areas. The hot new thing, at least in places where cannabis is legal, is budtending — providing bespoke recommendations on strains and products. Budtenders work in both recreational and medical dispensaries and drive the majority of each establishment’s sales. As such, they’re required to be extremely knowledgeable about everything from cannabis biochemistry to the latest trends like vaping and dabbing.
Like any worthwhile sommelier, a good budtender is also a great storyteller, taking the individual needs of the customer into consideration and providing a recommendation that’s both informative and emotionally resonant.
Budtenders need to have great interpersonal skills as well: patience, charm, and just the right amount of salesy aggressiveness are all qualities that will serve you well in this role. Although budtending jobs can be difficult to come by, working a less public-facing job at a dispensary is a great way to get your foot in the door.
A quick look around most college dorms with tell you that hardware is a major component of cannabis culture in the U.S. But weed accessories are no longer relegated to the old psychedelic aesthetics of blown glass and trippy color combos. Now, as people of all different backgrounds and tastes come out of the cannabis closet, a niche market is quickly emerging for well-designed pipes, bongs, grinders, stash jars, and pretty much every other type of paraphernalia you can imagine. Savvy industrial designers have a unique opportunity to create beautiful, functional pieces at a variety of price points. Corporate backing isn’t even a prerequisite: products like the Aura Water Pipe are successfully crowdfunded by creative and enterprising minds. Online marketplaces like Etsy make for ideal virtual head shops in which to sell specially-crafted products. The opportunities for product promotion are also growing — after some prominent screen time in popular web series High Maintenance, the super-sleek Journey sold out across multiple outlets.
One of the more surprising aspects of the commercial cannabis boom has been the creation of an entirely new security industry. Because the sale of cannabis is still prohibited by federal law, banks cannot accept money from dispensaries, regardless of state laws that allow those dispensaries to operate. As a result, small cannabis businesses are forced to deal in cash, and have become especially vulnerable to theft. The answer to this ironic conundrum? Private security firms that oversee the safe transportation of cash and product and provide on-site protection. With an emphasis on vigilance and force, cannabis security firms are top employers for military veterans and retired law enforcement personnel. Although such security operations aren’t ubiquitous — in Washington State, armed guards are banned from any dispensary premises — they’ve provided peace of mind for many entrepreneurial cannabis pioneers. The role of former federal employees in protecting the profits of a federally prohibited substance is one of cannabis legalization’s biggest ironies — and biggest opportunities.
Any product worth buying these days is bound to have a slew of consumers tossing in their two cents about its flaws or merits. Specialized reviews exist for restaurants, films, cars, and booze. Why should cannabis be any exception? Just as cannabis growers crossbreed like crazy, creating endlessly varied strains with different tastes and effects, these new strains beg to be evaluated.
Being a cannabis reviewer means recreating an entire experience — vividly describing the structure and smell of buds, noting their texture and pliancy, breaking down a flavor profile, and, most importantly, putting an ineffable high into some concise words.
Much like budtending, cannabis reviewing requires an expansive baseline of knowledge. Familiarity with the differences between indicas and sativas is obviously a must, but so is a fluency with the properties of staple strains like Sour Diesel or Lemon Kush. Some measure of foodie pretension can also come in handy, especially when making observations about smell or taste that might not be immediately obvious. With apps and directories popping up all the time, there’s no shortage of platforms on which to review different strains and products. Really, the hardest part of reviewing weed might be finding something bad to say.