The November election provided another big win for proponents of legal marijuana, with voters in eight additional states giving the drug their approval. And it’s not just users who are celebrating. The wave of states legalizing pot is turning out to be a boon for the growing marijuana industry as well.

Even before residents hit the polls on November 8, marijuana use for medical purposes was legal in 25 states; four states and the District of Columbia permitted recreational use. That translates into big business for an increasing number of firms that are growing and marketing cannabis-related products.

Legal sales hit $5.7 billion in the United States in 2015, up 24% from the prior year, according to the market research firm ArcView Group. Prior to last month’s election, the organization had estimated that sales could reach $7.1 billion in 2017 and a staggering $22 billion by the year 2020.

Those estimates could run on the low side, thanks to residents in Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and California having approved recreational use of the drug last month. The fact that ballot initiatives to legalize medical use in Montana, North Dakota, Arkansas and Florida passed, too, will only expand the size of the legal market.

Job Market Heats Up

The shift in marijuana’s legal status has fueled demand for workers who can help sustain the industry, from greenhouse employees and production managers to sales associates and scientists.

There has also been a surge in jobs you wouldn’t normally associate with the marijuana trade. Realty companies is some parts of the country, for example, have started hiring agents who specialize in finding suitable properties for growers. 

Just how big is the job market? Consider that in Colorado last year, the sector provided 18,000 new, full-time jobs, according to the Marijuana Policy Group, a research organization.  And that's just one state.

While lower-level jobs in the industry pay modestly – a bud trimmer makes between $12 and $15 an hour – those that require specialized skills pay relatively well. If you can bring solid business experience or a strong scientific background to the table, employers are willing to pay.

As an example, a medical marijuana firm in eastern Colorado recently posted an opening for a greenhouse production manager who will make between $50,000 and $70,000 a year.  A “director of cultivation” job in Denver, which oversees production as well as research and development, advertises a $100,000 salary. 

University Programs Growing

As a result of the legalization trend, several college programs have sprouted up promising to help students prepare for jobs on either the business side of the industry or the scientific realm. These days, one can even find marijuana courses at established institutions like the University of Denver or Vanderbilt University.

There’s also been an influx of smaller, marijuana-focused colleges in states like Colorado, which was the first to legalize the drug. The problem is that it’s sometimes hard for students to figure out which ones are legitimate.

Some, like Clover Leaf University, which offers certification programs in marijuana law, cultivation and business, have certification from their state higher education commission. 

But programs with dubious credentials, not to mention questionable ethics, have also popped up. Greenway University, for instance, was forced to close down five years ago after its founders failed to reveal a prior felony conviction.

This means that while higher education can be the ticket to a better-paying job, it’s still very much a “buyer beware” scenario. At a minimum, you should make sure any school you are considering is accredited by the appropriate state body. Also important: Talk to students who have gone through the program to find out what their experience was like and ask the school to provide information on job placement.

The Bottom Line

The growth of the legal marijuana market is opening up more and more opportunities for job-seekers with industry-specific knowledge. But because the industry is so young, knowing which colleges will help you get those skills requires some legwork. (See also The Economic Benefits of Legalizing Weed and The Business Outlook for the Marijuana Industry.)

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