Article by The Fresh Toast via Growth Op
Depending on the staffing firm or recruiting expert used, the cannabis industry in the U.S. is either mainly underpaying its employees or correcting the issue as it matures into a billion-dollar market.
The lack of consensus does not take away from the fact that the space is one of immense potential and is already a job creator. Research conducted by Leafly found that cannabis supported more than 321,000 full-time jobs in the U.S. as of January 2021. The report states there are now more U.S. cannabis workers than electrical engineers.
The booming market appears strong in early 2021, with experts saying several well-paying roles are in-demand. However, some in staffing say that the salaries remain underwhelming in several key sectors.
A wide range of opportunities and salaries
Cannabis is a large industry, covering many job functions. Analysis conducted in 2020 by Wikileaf presented some of the varied roles and associated salaries.
In cultivation, a trimmer may make between US$12 and US$18 per hour; an assistant grower could get anywhere from US$45,000 to US$70,000 per year, with master growers earning US$100,000 or more; budtenders can earn about US$31,000 to $42,000 per year; a shop manager can see wild ranges in salaries, with some earning as much as US$150,000 and others pulling in closer to the $30,000 mark.
Danielle Schumacher, co-founder and CEO of THC Staffing Group, says she feels that low salaries stem from entry-level positions that make up much of the industry. Schumacher said roles in retail, delivery, packaging, cultivation assistance, administrative and marketing all could be considered entry-level. Specialized functions, like a lab tech, could also fall into the group, she said.
“The pay is low for all of these positions, and if someone is lucky enough to get a promotion, the pay increase does not match the increased responsibilities,” said Schumacher, who reported that many assistant managers at dispensaries make less than US$20 per hour.
Sean Cooley, head of content and SEO for Vangst, noted that the wide range in pay is one of the reasons the company publishes a free yearly salary guide.
Its 2019 report found that salaries jumped 16.1 per cent between 2017 and 2018. The analysis offered up even greater swings, with an extraction director making between US$47,000 and US$191,000 for the year, depending on experience and skill level. Less experienced and/or skilled heads of cultivation could earn a similar minimum salary as an extractor, but could get paid more than US$250,000 at the top of their field.
Cooley reported that entry-level salaries continue to improve. However, experienced workers in other fields may be in for a momentary loss in wages when starting out. “If you’re crossing over from another field, you may be taking a temporary step back in order to gain valuable experience that will eventually propel your career forward as the legal market grows,” he said.
Staffing leaders say that the better-paying roles in cannabis are found at the same levels as other industries, typically in positions requiring higher expertise or leadership responsibilities. As such, some of the top-paying careers include C-suite executives and facility management.
“There is an opportunity for anyone, regardless of skill set, to find their fit in cannabis,” suggested David Belsky, founder of FlowerHire.
Liesl Bernard, founder and CEO of Cannabiz Team, said the right mix of experience, drive and knowledge are vital in landing any job. “With the popularity and acceptance of cannabis growing, talent from other industries are looking to transition into the cannabis industry,” said Bernard.
In addition to many of the careers already mentioned, she said high-paying positions in testing lab management, e-commerce platform management and branding are all likely.
How to get a good-paying job in cannabis
Experts say applicants can stand out with many different soft skills, including having clear communication, creativity and adaptability. Cannabis knowledge is beneficial, but not mandatory, according to Bernard.
She added that related experience is suitable. “The popularity of cannabis and CBD drinks is rising, so experience in the food and beverage industry is desirable at this time,” she said as an example.
While an understanding of the entire market isn’t expected, staffing leaders suggest that applicants educate themselves before applying. Schumacher recommends researching the whole supply chain and its sectors, but there isn’t an expectation for expertise.
“You don’t need to be an expert on everything; an overview of the cannabis economy is most important,” said Schumacher, recommending that people look for critical industry points, including common denominators in the market, divergence in regulatory frameworks and the local culture.
“Talk to people who work in the industry or share your interests so you will have a more refined and realistic understanding of the landscape by the time you are writing a cover letter or interviewing,” said Schumacher. From there, she suggested defining minimum salary and benefits requirements.