With medical marijuana now legal in more states than not – 30, to be exact – and recreational marijuana now legal in nine states and Washington, D.C., and Uruguay and Canada, high-paying jobs in the marijuana industry are increasingly available. In Colorado, where recreational use was legalized in 2012, the rapidly growing industry brought in $1 billion in sales in 2016. Legal North American sales, including Canada, reached $6.7 billion last year and are estimated to exceed $20 billion by 2021. (For more, see The Economic Benefits of Legalizing Weed.)
5 High-Paying Jobs in the Marijuana Industry
If you want to obtain a top-paying position in this exciting industry, which is finally gaining respect for its role in helping people ease medical symptoms and side effects and relax and enjoy themselves more, here are five jobs to consider. The joint, as they say, is jumping.
1. Cannabis Consultant
Consulting is generally a high-paying career path, and the cannabis industry is no exception. Cannabis consultants can earn six figures by combining their expertise in state and local cannabis regulations with their backgrounds as lawyers, accountants or people who have worked in another capacity in the marijuana industry. They can help businesses find an acceptable location, obtain the licenses they need to open, and advise them on other legal matters so they don’t get fined or shut down. They may also help business owners with bookkeeping and tax requirements, which can be especially tricky, as cannabis is generally a cash-only business, due to its illegality at the federal level.
2. Dispensary Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer
Work for a state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary as a COO/CFO and you could earn $125,000 a year, plus medical and retirement benefits. Job responsibilities may include managing cultivation facility operations; managing the company’s accounting department; supervising financial reporting; overseeing harvesting, processing and distribution; analyzing operations to improve efficiency and reduce costs; and developing and monitoring budgets. Even if you don’t have prior marijuana industry experience, this position may be open to you if you have held a similar role in another industry and are a certified public accountant.
3. Cannabis Extraction Technician
A cannabis extraction technician can earn somewhere between $75,000 to $125,000 annually for doing skilled laboratory work, extracting THC, CBD and other cannabinoids that provide the therapeutic qualities consumers seek from cannabis plants. These techs use solvents such as CO2 and butane to consistently create high-quality, highly potentcy concentrates. This job’s scientific knowledge base – many workers have Ph.D.s – and risk of injury due to the chemicals involved (a risk that’s higher among people attempting to do extractions themselves in home labs than among trained scientists in a professional setting), contribute to its high pay.
4. Grow Master/Botanical Specialist
For a salary of approximately $80,000 to $100,000 or more per year, a grow master’s responsibilities may include managing warehouses and their grow lights; cloning, transplanting, feeding, trimming and other growing tasks; training supervisors; managing a warehouse crew; managing garden scheduling and organization to minimize expenses; preventing and eliminating molds, fungi and pests; keeping records; and managing harvests. A successful crop can lead to bonuses on top of an excellent salary.
5. Marijuana Edibles Chef
Being a successful marijuana edibles chef requires more than an ability to cook and bake well and an understanding of commercial kitchens. It also takes an understanding of how to infuse marijuana into food in quantities that are legal and pleasurable while using methods that don’t create an overwhelming marijuana flavor.
In addition to creating typical edibles, such as candies and cookies, chefs can use cannabis-infused oils and butter in creative ways to concoct anything they can dream up, from mixed-berry streusel to mushroom ravioli, while earning $40,000 to $50,000 a year or more – perhaps up to $80,000 for leading a kitchen. Opportunities for additional income exist in blogging about cannabis recipes and cooking techniques, working as a private chef, and catering special marijuana-themed events for cannabis connoisseurs, depending on what state marijuana laws permit.
The Bottom Line
The marijuana industry has numerous high-paying jobs in addition to the five covered here. Many that pay well are also lucrative in other industries – think jobs in management, science and accounting. If you already have skills in a high-paying field, combining them with cannabis knowledge can create new employment opportunities, especially if you live in or are willing to relocate to a state where medical or recreational marijuana is legal. Likewise, if you have cannabis knowledge and are willing to train to become a CPA or other highly paid professional, you can blaze a new career path for yourself.
One word of caution: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has expressed interest in enforcing federal marijuana laws against recreational marijuana use even in states that have legalized it, a stance that represents a major shift from the Obama administration's policy. Be aware of the possibility that law enforcement could change in ways that might affect any career you choose in this industry. However, recent proposed bi-partisan legislation would mean federal legalization.