A global pandemic has left the economy on shaky footing, and raging wildfires are threatening to burn down the world’s finest cannabis farms. Yet, even in the face of all this uncertainty, the cannabis industry continues to move forward and expand. In many ways, I am not surprised. Over the last few decades, the cannabis community has become well-acquainted with economic and environmental challenges, and the hardworking people in the cannabis community have continuously shown that they are up to meeting these challenges.
As a newly legal industry, cannabis has created a slew of new jobs. The communities that moved forward with legalization were few and far between at first; however, we are now at a place where over 30 states have some sort of legal cannabis market. We are even starting to see other countries begin to legally ship cannabis internationally, and I would imagine that selling across state lines is just around the corner. As companies begin to grow, so will the demand for talented professionals to help expand this new industry. As the new 2020 Salary Guide released by Cannabiz Team proves, this demand has already resulted in higher salaries, as companies are actively seeking individuals with the right talents and experience to make their companies successful.
Not all of these jobs are directly connected to cultivating cannabis. Sure, you need people with the skills to grow marijuna; however, the vast majority of the new jobs being created in the wake of legalization are cannabis-adjacent. Lawyers, lab technicians, accounts, marketing directors, and retail employees are all jobs that make up the infrastructure of the cannabis industry and, at the same time, have very little to do with the creation of actual cannabis plants. Like most commodities sold in the world, production is just one aspect of the process.
The demand for talented professionals has recently begun to draw a lot of people from other industries. Over the past six months, we have seen a steady rise in senior management from industries like packaged goods and biotech stepping into the cannabis industry to help these new companies grow and expand. Below you will find a list of some of the most high-paying jobs in the cannabis industry. Very few are directly involved in cannabis production; however, they are some of the most important jobs when it comes to keeping the cannabis industry moving forward.
Cultivation: Director of Cultivation ($158,000)
It all begins here. In short, this is the person who’s responsible for the entire grow operation. There is a lot that goes into growing cannabis — especially on a large scale, so experience comes at a premium for this position. From seed to sale, the Director of Cultivation is responsible for orchestrating all of the processes that go into making quality cannabis. Experience from the illicit market can open doors; however, more and more colleges are starting to create horticulture programs geared toward cannabis cultivation. If growing cannabis at this scale is your dream, be sure to pick up the business skills necessary to run a large operation. See our recent Director of Cultivation Job Profile on Natura Life Science’s Steve Counsil for some surprising insights.
Extraction: Director of Extraction ($102,900)
A combination of artist and scientist, the Director of Extraction is an expert at creating cannabis concentrates. There are many ways to create a cannabis extract; however, the goal is always twofold: maximize yields and create quality. Great concentrates start with great flower; therefore, being able to source quality plant material is the first job of any extraction artist. After finding quality plant material, the goal is to make sure that, during the process, the chemistry of the plant remains intact and there are no unwanted solvents left over. This job is suited for someone with a solid background in chemistry and a love for the plant, and, considering the growing popularity of vaping, companies are willing to pay a premium for someone who can create amazing cannabis concentrates.
Testing: Chief Science Officer ($158,115)
Testing is mandatory in the cannabis market, and, as the public becomes more educated about cannabis, the more they will want to see what is in their products through cannabis lab test results. Testing lets people know exactly what they are putting in their body, and it keeps producers honest when it comes to the quality and safety of their products. Another job that requires a solid background in science, the Chief Science Officer will understand the SOPs necessary to make testing consistent and trustworthy.
Manufacturing: Director of Operations ($146,395)
Depending on the laws that are governing your area, this job can include slightly different operational tasks; however, the goal is going to be the same — get the product ready for distribution. The Director of Operations is the person who takes over after the Director of Cultivation is finished growing and curing the plant. Packaging and storage are the biggest challenges. Cannabis is perishable, so you are in a race against the clock to get it properly stored and packaged to preserve the integrity of the product. People with an incredible ability to remain organized are perfect for this position, and any experience in warehouse management or production is valued.
Distribution: Director of Distribution ($108,995)
This job is becoming more important every day. It is already a huge task to organize the distribution within a single state, but, as distribution opens up to other states and countries, the task becomes larger and more complex. Yes, this job is becoming more difficult because the territory is expanding; however, this is only the beginning. How things are packaged and shipped are usually highly regulated, and the laws that govern these things can change from state to state. States can also use different systems for tracking — systems that are so new, they barely function within themselves. People with experience in other highly regulated industries, like alcohol and tobacco, are going to be in high demand as the industry begins to expand.
Retail: VP of Retail ($134,500)
In many ways, the VP of Retail is responsible for the public face of cannabis. The retail space is where many people will encounter cannabis for the first time. Thought needs to be put into how customers are going to interact with it. Creating a space that feels welcoming to curious individuals is paramount. You also need to make sure that the right products are in the store, the staff is adequately educated on the product, and the right SOPs are in place to make sure the business runs smoothly. Cannabis is also a highly regulated substance, so you have to make sure that the business is staying within the law as it is sold. The qualities you want in a VP of Retail for cannabis are going to be the same qualities you want in a VP of Retail for other industries. Hiring managers know that training people in basic cannabis knowledge is a lot easier than teaching people-skills. This is a position that can draw from a lot of different industries.
Sales & Marketing: Chief Marketing Officer ($134,500)
This is also a position that is not dependent upon having cannabis experience. There may be a lot of laws that govern how cannabis can be marketed; however, the skills that go into creating a successful marketing campaign can be found in most industries. This position is so vital because it represents the primary way in which a brand communicates with the public. Things like branding and social media need to be designed in a way that draws people and drives sales. If you are a creative in the marketing space who is looking to make their way into the cannabis space, this is a job for you.
Accounting & Finance: Chief Financial Officer ($192,000)
Just like with any business, in order to be successful, you need to make sure that you have a firm grip on your finances. Cannabis can be even more difficult than other businesses, as banks are still not eager to work with cannabis companies. In other words, a lot of cannabis is still run as a cash business. This means a lot of actual paper money needs to be counted before it shows up on a spreadsheet. You can imagine that this has created a great need for financial experts to keep track of the finances. Financial training can be found at a lot of schools; however, when it comes to relevant experience, financial professionals who work in the casino industry often have a great understanding of what it means to run the finance department of a cannabis business.
Compliance: VP of Compliance ($120,500)
Compliance is incredibly important, and great cannabis businesses invest in this department. There is a huge list of rules that governs the cannabis industry, and they seem to change every day. Whether you are in production or sales, having someone in charge of making sure the business is running legally is vital to keeping those doors open. The VP of Compliance needs to have a working understanding of the entire operation, to make sure that all procedures remain legal. Compliance can also help employees avoid legal trouble, as the government can pursue legal action against individuals if the business is operating outside the law. This job requires an eye for detail and a grasp of legal language.
Compliance: General Counsel ($137,000)
Considering the ever-evolving legal status of cannabis, a lot of businesses in the cannabis space choose to retain a lawyer. Lawyers are helpful for companies that produce and/or sell cannabis; however, they are also helpful for businesses that work in cannabis-adjacent spaces. Whether someone is selling cannabis or cannabis education, there are laws in place that dictate how one can go about doing that. It’s nice having a lawyer on call who can help make sure that everything a cannabis business is doing is within the realm of legality. In other words, companies would rather have their lawyer tell them something is illegal before they move forward on a project instead of having the authorities tell them they have just done something illegal after the fact. If you are a lawyer and looking to get into the cannabis space, there are lots of programs you can take to give you an overview of the laws that govern cannabis in your region.