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The Attraction of Working in the Medical Marijuana Industry



Currently in the United States there are 30 states in which medical marijuana is legal and widely available. There are 10 states in which marijuana is legal for adult use (over 21). Medical Marijuana has been legal in Florida since 2014. By 2020, Forbes magazine has projected that more than 250,000-300,000 jobs will be in the legal cannabis industry.

We are seeing people from all professions wanting to join this new, legal industry. But why? What is the lure of working in a marijuana business? After posing this question to hundreds of cannabis industry insiders, I have collected the most common answers given on why people want to work in legal cannabis:

  1. It is the first time in the modern era where something illegal is now legal. That is intriguing and exciting for most people. It is the lure of being a rebel, or doing something that you are not supposed to, and getting away with it that drives people to the cannabis space.
  2. The stigma of working in the marijuana field is starting to disappear. As more states legalize cannabis, the stigma continues to decrease. People start to look at cannabis with an objective and factual point of view, rather than an ideological view as something that is bad for people.
  3. The ability to start over or bring new skills to a profession that are needed. Some of us have been working in a profession for decades and are burnt out. Some of us have kids, and a mortgage, and other responsibilities that don't allow a change in professional career. This new legal industry gives people a chance to start over, a chance to reinvent themselves, or a chance to be a part of history.
  4. Being able to move up quickly because you are not decades behind in experience. It creates a level playing field. The cannabis industry is unique because most people have no experience when applying for jobs. Most cannabis companies expect employees to have no experience and it is not considered a negative when applying.

Types of jobs in legal cannabis

The types of jobs that are in the legal cannabis industry are classified into two categories; direct and indirect jobs. Direct jobs work in areas that actually touch the marijuana plant (jobs related to cultivation and processing, working in a dispensary, transporting cannabis, etc.). Indirect jobs are ancillary jobs related to the cannabis industry, but never touch marijuana (accountant, lawyer, general contractor, human resources, software developer, plumber, insurance agent, etc.)

How do I get into the cannabis profession?

Most, if not all, of the medical marijuana companies are hiring in Florida. However, competition is fierce. If you are interested in working in the cannabis space, I have a few suggestions to increase your chances of gaining employment:

  • Do your homework - If you apply for a cannabis job and know nothing about the cannabis industry, then you will show prospective employers that you are not serious, and you will not get hired. Read the Florida Medical Marijuana law (Florida Statute 381.986) It is approximately 60 pages. It will help you understand how the Florida Medical Marijuana system operates and allow you to ask educated questions in your interview.

  • Network with people in the cannabis industry - Go to cannabis or CBD related conferences, reach out to industry executives on Facebook and LinkedIn. Let people know your skill set, your background, and your capabilities. Ask people in the industry for advice on what you should work on to be a more attractive candidate. The cannabis industry is growing extremely fast and employers are always looking for talented people that can fill positions they know will be coming in the future.

  • Know your worth - Just because you may not have experience in the cannabis industry, does not mean you do not bring expertise and knowledge to help a cannabis company. Explain to companies how your knowledge can bring value to their organization and how their company is much better with you on their team.

  • Desperation never sells - When looking for any job, if you portray that you are desperate for a job, it shows a potential employer that you are not passionate about working in the cannabis industry. You are just showing that you want a paycheck, and you will be overlooked for someone who is truly passionate about cannabis and you will not be hired.

  • Persistence, Persistence, Persistence - Just because you met a cannabis executive once, doesn't mean he or she will remember you when it comes time to hire for a position. These people are busy and are being approached constantly for positions within their organization. If you are in contact with people from the industry via social media or in person on a regular basis, they are more likely to remember you and notify you of a position prior to being announced. From my personal experience running many healthcare companies, the people who are the most persistent are the ones who eventually get hired.

Michael C. Patterson, founder and CEO of U.S. Cannabis Pharmaceutical Research & Development of Melbourne, is a consultant for the development of the medical marijuana industry nationwide and in Florida. He serves as a consultant to Gerson Lehrman Group, New York and helps educate GLG partners on specific investment strategies and public policy regarding Medical Marijuana in the U.S. and Internationally.

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