So you want to work in the cannabis industry?
If you’ve thought about working in Canada's cannabis industry, you’re in good company. In July 2018, cannabis-related job searches on Indeed.ca were four times higher than July 2017, and since then, job postings have more than tripled.
According to Deloitte, over the next several years the Canadian cannabis industry could create 150,000 jobs. Legalization was even a factor in driving down Canada’s unemployment rate to a record low in November.
Clearly, the industry is looking for workers. But if you don't know where to start, read this guide to learn what kinds of jobs are out there and how to begin your career search.
What kind of jobs exist in the cannabis industry?
There are two general categories of jobs in the cannabis industry: retail and production.
On the retail side, which applies to both private and provincially owned cannabis storefronts, the most common job available is budtender. (Yes, "budtender" is someone who serves customers, answers questions and makes recommendations.) There are also retail jobs in cannabis education, sales, marketing, management, team leadership and accounting, among others.
In production, the most common job posting is for quality assurance, but others include production assistant, executive assistant and maintenance technician. There are jobs in areas like packaging, laboratory work and more, and also senior positions like lead hand or master grower. These are often higher-paying, but require horticultural experience and a background in cannabis production. Jobs are available for registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students, too, usually at clinics that prescribe cannabis to medical patients.
Other industries also benefit from the economic spinoff of the cannabis industry. Expect to see more cannabis-related jobs in the financial sector, as well as in law, politics and media. New types of careers will open up as the industry evolves, too; edibles and concentrates will be legal in 2019, and in U.S. states where cannabis is legal, edibles chefs - chefs who infuse their food with cannabis - are increasingly in demand.
How can you stand out when applying?
A background in cannabis, especially in the medical cannabis industry, will get your foot in the door. If you don’t have work experience, knowledge of cannabis and its therapeutic benefits – and an understanding of cannabis culture – is beneficial. There’s an entire community based around cannabis, so there’s no shortage of places where you can learn. Network, find trade shows, sign up for newsletters, do lots of research and learn about the products and trends in the industry.
Network, find trade shows, sign up for newsletters, do lots of research and learn about the products and trends in the industry.
There’s no clearly defined career path for getting into the cannabis business, but you can use that to your advantage. Focus on what skills you bring to the table and how they could help the company you’re applying at. Each company has its own mission and competitive advantages that make it stand out. Be aware of these differences and learn to articulate how your skillset aligns with the company’s values.
After that, there are some practical steps you can take. Cannabis staffing agencies such as Cannabis at Work, can help you find jobs that are tailored to your skills. If you’re looking a few years into the future, you can consider post-secondary education; there are already cannabis programs in at least 11 post-secondary institutions across Canada, including six colleges that offer diplomas in cannabis cultivation.
Are there risks involved with working in the cannabis industry?
Unfortunately, working in the nascent cannabis industry still presents some unique challenges, especially around international travel. In September 2018, Canadians were warned
that if they work in the cannabis industry, they could be banned for life from the United States. Later, U.S. Customs and Border Protectionclarified that cannabis-industry employees can enter the U.S. as long as their reason for travel is unrelated to their work.
One last thing about working in the cannabis industry: having a job in the industry doesn’t mean you can use cannabis at work, even if you have a medical prescription, with the main issue being impairment. You should consult your employer if you have any questions about cannabis in the workplace.
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