When most people think of marijuana, they're likely to think of grow ops set up in the secret backrooms of shady dealers. Things are changing, especially now that the stigma attached to using the plant begins to fade. The cannabis plant has been used for both medicinal and recreational purposes for as long as we can remember. But it's only recently that governments have recognized—and admitted—that the physical and economic benefits outweigh dangers of the drug. In fact, with more areas of the world legalizing usage, the marijuana industry is growing and rapidly innovating. Read on to find out the basics of the industry and what some of the highest paying jobs are in the field.

Key Takeaways

  • Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states, while recreational usage is legal in 11 states and D.C.
  • The cannabis industry is expected to grow by as much as 14% by 2025, according to a cannabis research group.
  • Top roles in the field include consultant, COO and CFO, extraction technician, grow master, and edibles chef.

The Marijuana Industry: An Overview

People's perceptions of the cannabis industry are evolving, thanks to a greater degree of research and information available. In fact, a study conducted by Pew Research suggests two-thirds of Americans welcome the legalization of the plant. Although it is still considered a controlled substance by the federal government—it's illegal by U.S. government standards—U.S. Attorney General William Barr pledged not to pursue action against businesses in states that have legalized the plant. Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states, while recreational usage is permitted in 11 states and Washington, D.C.

Although many states have legalized marijuana, the federal government still considers it a controlled or illegal substance.

This new reality has led to the development of a multi-billion dollar industry. Cannabis research group New Frontier Data suggests the industry could grow roughly 14%, with sales reaching as high as $13.1 billion by 2025. All of this has major benefits for anyone looking to cash in on a career in an industry that had as many as 28,000 related businesses in 2017.

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.

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 area of the marijuana industry. They can help businesses find acceptable locations, 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.

Dispensary COO and CFO

Work for a state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary as a chief operating officer (COO) or chief financial officer (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
  • 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.

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, high potency 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. 

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
  • Managing harvests

A successful crop can lead to bonuses on top of an excellent salary. 

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 keeping that overwhelming marijuana flavor at bay.

In addition to creating edibles like 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 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 certified public accountant (CPA) or other highly paid professional, you can blaze a new career path for yourself.