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When the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its jobs report on Feb. 1, 2019, a small percentage of the 304,000 new positions added in January were in the cannabis industry — a piece of data unlikely to have appeared a year or two ago.

With the legalization of medical and adult-use cannabis spreading across the United States and beyond, the burgeoning legal industry is now pressed to find and build a skilled workforce and it's relying on increasingly mainstream sources to find them. The particular needs of the industry also have given rise to cannabis-specific recruiters, headhunters and human resources managers for the fast-growing industry.  

Employment recruitment site Glassdoor released its own jobs report in late January 2019 showing that cannabis-related job openings grew 76 percent year-over-year in 2018 compared with 2017, and listed the states wherein many of them can be had, notably California, Colorado, and New York.

It wasn't long ago when finding a job in the cannabis industry was almost as clandestine as finding cannabis itself.

Veteran High Times journalist Malcolm MacKinnon, who worked at the magazine from 1992 to 2017, the last two as editor-in-chief, confirmed that the cannabis industry has entered a new era of legitimacy and the change has been dramatic. 

“At that time, there was no cannabis industry as we know it now and no jobs in the traditional sense. Everything was underground and illegal,” MacKinnon said. “Back then, many of us wondered whether there was life after High Times. Would another magazine hire you? Would the stigma of marijuana taint your resume?”

The passage of California's Compassionate Use Act in 1996 legalized medical marijuana and slowly ushered in the beginning of a mainstream industry, said MacKinnon, who now sees a vibrant job market and “the stigma of employment in the cannabis industry finally dissipating.”  

Job sites such as Indeed.com and Monster.com also have cannabis industry job listings. On Feb. 7, 2019, searching the word “cannabis” on Indeed.com brought 3,642 listings and 759 on Monster.com. Both sites ran the gamut of job offerings from budtender to store manager to six-figure offers for analytical chemists.

Data collected by online job platform ZipRecruiter showed that the total number of cannabis-related job postings increased by 445 percent in 2017, compared with 18 percent for 2016. Arcview Market Research predicted that by 2021, there will be a total of 414,000 full-time jobs among legalized states. As of 2018, the cannabis industry supported 125,000-160,000 full-time jobs in the U.S, according to Marijuana Business Daily.

Not only are cannabis-industry jobs growing fast, but they also can pay more. According to a survey by Glassdoor, jobs in the cannabis industry pay 10.7 percent higher than the U.S. median salary of $52,863.  

Where the Jobs Are, and How to Find Them

Professional staffing agencies that earn a fee from companies seeking qualified, pre-screened candidates can be a good source for cannabis industry jobs.

 One such company is Seattle-based Viridian Staffing, co-founded by Kara Bradford in 2013 after she spent 15 years recruiting for Microsoft and Disney. Viridian, where Bradford is chief talent officer, provides temporary staffing and temp-to-hire jobs. As the first of its kind in the industry, Viridian assures applicants it's not a “resume mill” but rather a bona fide recruiting agency.  

Karson Humiston founded Vangst in 2016. Now the Denver-based startup has career fairs, a job board, and Vangst GIGS, which specializes in temporary work such as trimming, budtending, and packaging. Vangst also finds long-term permanent jobs for applicants.  

Justinian Mason, Vangst's senior recruiting manager offered his insider knowledge about landing a job in the cannabis industry. “Educate yourselves. Companies are looking for people who are passionate and hardworking, not necessarily just people with experience in the marijuana industry,” Mason said. “There are so many aspects and avenues in the industry. Dive in and learn about them.”

HempStaff specializes in finding management-level employees, such as master growers, extractors, accountants, and testing lab technicians. They also provide a dispensary agent training course and say that to date they have trained over 6,600 people to work in dispensaries in 20 U.S. states. Denver-based Ms. Mary Staffing, founded in 2014, began offering human resources assistance such as payroll management, benefits, and worker's compensation support when it expanded its services in December 2017.

Cannabis job boards

One of the more popular and longstanding is Ganjapreneur's Marijuana Job Board, which regularly posts classified ad-style job listings for employers and applicants.

Other job board sites include:

  • 420Careers.com, which finds marijuana industry jobs across the country spanning a variety of fields including cooking, security, and writing.
  • Weed Hire posts openings nationally in specialized areas such as insurance agents, lawyers, solar panels specialists as well as more traditional jobs such as growers, budtenders, and dispensary operators.
  • CannaJobs offers full-time, contract-hire, and temporary staffing. Prospective employees submit their resumes online, which are then made available for employers.

This post has been updated to clarify MacKinnon's role and years of employment at High Times.

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