How to Get Hired to Work in the Cannabis Industry

Published on April 28, 2015 · Last updated July 28, 2020
Office desk table with computer, supplies, flower and coffee cup. Top view with copy space

This series was written by Trevor Smith, a marijuana industry veteran with years of experience running a state-licensed seed-to-sale cannabis operation. Having recognized a growing need to attract great talent to the cannabis industry, Trevor has developed position-specific approaches to help those who are interested in employment opportunities within the rapidly-growing cannabis industry. These articles are designed to offer guidance for those who are looking for work in the medical cannabis industry but are unsure of how to get started. Part 1 is dedicated to general interviewing advice. Later installments will focus on a specific approach on how to get hired for budtender and grower positions.

So You Want to Work in the Legal Cannabis Industry

Herbal Wellness Center dispensary counter

Congratulations—your timing couldn’t be better! The legal cannabis market is becoming the fastest-growing industry in the largest economy in the world. Many states have had their industry more than double despite their program having already existed for several years.

The rapid growth means there is, or soon will be, a place for you this industry, and your first job is to keep looking until you find it. Be ready to meet a ton of new people full of passion and exciting ideas. Try to interview as much as you can to prepare for this opportunity—as the saying goes, practice makes perfect, especially with someone you trust to provide helpful feedback on how to improve your communication skills.

Step 1: Do Your Own Research

Laptop and stack of files

If you’re worried that you don’t have much experience in or knowledge of the legal cannabis industry, don’t fret — it’s perfectly okay to be starting from nothing. Just by reading this guide, you’re already working on the first crucial step to landing a job in this industry: Do Your Own Research. Some things in life you have to find out for yourself. “Where is a good place for me to work” is definitely one of those things.

Thanks to the Internet, researching companies has never been easier. If you’re serious about joining the cannabis industry, you should be reading as much as you can, every single day.

Suggested research tactics include:

  • Sign up for every cannabis industry website, blog, newsletter, and mailing list you can
  • Purchase and read books by well-known industry authors like Ed Rosenthal or Jorge Cervantes
  • Research books that are on the curriculum or recommended reading list of cannabis universities, colleges, and certification companies
  • Ask your friends or anyone you know in the industry what books they’ve read or industry websites they visit
  • If you can afford it, attend and network at major cannabis industry conferences

We’ll dive into more narrow research strategies for specific job positions in future parts of this series, but your immediate goal when conducing this research is to learn the people, language, and history of cannabis as early as you can. If you’re ever not sure where to look for information, it’s often as simple as just asking someone what he or she recommends for education. Fantastic questions to ask someone who works in the cannabis industry include “Where do you go for knowledge?” or “Who in the industry do you admire?”

Step 2: Know ‘The Mission’

What is your mission?

When applying to work for a cannabis business, understanding the company’s mission should be your #1 research priority. Make sure you talk about the mission with everyone who interviews you. As potential team members, the mission is your shared goal and the thing connecting everyone together. Show you care about what the company is doing. Find ways to talk about how you are personally impacted by the their mission and how you want to help further it and the people who support it.

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If the company’s mission is simply “to make money,” turn around and run in the other direction. There are plenty of industries where “pure financial gain” is a perfectly acceptable mission, but medical cannabis is not one of them. Find an organization that has a mission you truly believe in and are proud to stand for.

Still need guidance on identifying a positive company mission to rally behind and support? Keep in mind that generally, the best missions are centered on helping others. Medical marijuana’s purpose is to help patients in need of relief to help manage their symptoms and conditions. If you can’t see how the work you want to do will improve peoples’ lives, you’re in the wrong business.

Step 3: Remember That Work Is the Family You Choose

Herbal Wellness dispensary staff

The most important consideration when hiring someone is whether or not the rest of the team would actually want to spend 10 or 12 hours a day working alongside that person. If there is any doubt, chances are you won’t get hired. People are the most important part of an organization, so it’s essential to have the right fit.

If you prove to be a great fit for the business, you become part of the solid foundation that has been tasked with carrying out the company’s mission. However, if you’re not aligned with the company’s culture and values, the lack of synergy can disrupt the working relationship and derail the mission.

While there are little things you can do to help improve your “likability,” I really caution against “faking it.” Even if you trick these people into thinking they’d want to hang out with you, don’t forget that you actually have to hang out with them. A bad fit hurts everybody, especially when you have to explain in future interviews why the job didn’t work out. My best advice: If you haven’t found the right fit yet, keep looking until you find somewhere you truly “belong.”

Step 4: Ask the Right Questions

Question marks

I have not, and will not, hire someone who doesn’t ask at least one good question at the end of the Interview. Not thinking to ask questions about the company you’re hoping to join and the role you want to have shows a complete lack of interest or creativity. Besides, you’re asking everyone about their personal take on their company mission, so you should be going into the interview with an inquisitive mindset.

You should be intentionally asking the same questions to different employees throughout the course of your interview. Use your questions as a way to test your interviewers to see if they’re all on the same page. If different people have wildly different answers, especially about the company mission or your day-to-day responsibilities, it’s a telling indication of the type of problems you may run into should you accept the position.

My favorite type of interview questions ask the interviewers to share their perspective on something personal, but not overly personal. If they say “Oooh… I’ve never been asked that before,” you’ve got a great chance at getting hired.

The following are examples of some good questions to ask:

  • “If you were the one getting hired for this role, what is one area you would personally focus on improving?”
  • “What is something this company has done that you are proud of?”
  • “If you could take one rule from another state and have it apply here, what would it be?”

Now that you have some of the basics, Part 2 of “How to Get Hired to Work in the Legal Cannabis Industry” will dive into specific strategies on how to get hired as a budtender. However, your research on “hiring strategy” has just begun. Your homework assignment is to learn as much as you can about concepts like “how to tell your personal story” and “how to effectively network.” You’ll want to have as big of a lead as possible on everyone else who is interested in your dream job, so get to work!

Are you a cannabis business looking for the right talent and the right marketing strategy to take your company to the next level? Leafly can help deliver results you want!

Learn how Leafly can grow your cannabis business

Cannabis dispensary and staff images courtesy of Herbal Wellness Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Leafly Staff
Leafly Staff
Leafly is the world’s largest cannabis information resource, empowering people in legal cannabis markets to learn about the right products for their lifestyle and wellness needs. Our team of cannabis professionals collectively share years of experience in all corners of the market, from growing and retail, to science and medicine, to data and technology.
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