When most people think of marijuana, they're likely to think of grow ops set up in secret backrooms of shady dealers. But 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 governments have only recently recognized—and admitted—that the physical and economic benefits outweigh the 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.
- Medical marijuana is legal in some form in 35 states and the District of Columbia.
- 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, dispensary executive, 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 available information. In fact, a study conducted by Pew Research suggests two-thirds of Americans welcome the legalization of the plant. As of November 2020, 35 states and the District of Columbia legalized medical marijuana, while residents in 15 states and D.C have voted to legalize recreational usage of the drug, according to USA Today.
Although many states have legalized marijuana, the federal government still considers it a controlled or illegal substance.
This new reality is helping 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 $30 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, according to market and consumer data provider Statista.
If you want a top-paying position in this 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.
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 with experience in another area of the marijuana industry.
They can help businesses find acceptable locations, obtain the licenses they need, 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 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 (CPA).
Cannabis Extraction Technician
A cannabis extraction technician can earn anywhere 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 a PhD—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 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 CPA or other highly paid professional, you can blaze a new career path for yourself.