Job Opportunities in the Legal Weed Industry Have Grown 79% Since 2018
This year, nearly a quarter million Americans will be working in the legal weed industry, and by 2021, that number could almost triple.
Published on November 20, 2019

Looking for a job? Perhaps you should look in the legal weed space. Employment in the regulated cannabis industry has increased by 79 percent from 2018 to 2019, according to a new annual salary guide released by cannabis recruiting company Vangst.

This year, an estimated 211,000 full-time employees will be working in the legal US weed industry. The report estimates that another 414,000 jobs will be created by 2021, potentially tripling the total number of jobs. A significant portion of these jobs may turn out to be part-time or seasonal work, however. By 2020, Vangst estimates that 40 percent of the country's cannabis workforce will be “on-demand talent,” a fancy term for freelancers and seasonal employees.

The report breaks the industry down into four major areas of employment: plant cultivation, product manufacturing, retail sales, and laboratory work (including lab testing and cannabinoid extraction). In each of these fields, the report breaks down the best paying and most popular jobs, complete with salary ranges and an overview of benefits. As an example, engineers in the lab and extraction quarter of the industry make an average of $68,000, and grow directors at pot cultivation facilities can take home around $87,000.

Overall, the highest demand for jobs in the industry is for budtenders, brand ambassadors, cultivation technicians, directors of cultivation, delivery drivers, and plant trimmers. The report does note that some positions, notably bud trimmers and retail employees, are high-turnover jobs, so companies may need to boost the salaries for these positions or prepare to spend additional time training a constant influx of new employees.

Although the industry is continuing to grow steadily, the federal prohibition of cannabis still creates a number of obstacles for state-legal weed businesses. Federal law still prevents financial institutions from servicing any business that deals with illegal drugs, a restriction that has made some accountants and lawyers hesitant to seek employment in this new industry.

Prohibition also makes it difficult for employers to offer federally-backed retirement and health insurance packages. Regardless, Vangst notes that the industry has been able to increase its benefits packages over the past year. The total number of weed businesses that do not offer employee benefits decreased by 7.5 percent from 2018 to this year, and the number of companies offering dental and vision benefits increased by 15 percent.

In fact, the average cannabis firm now offers more benefits than the average American company. The report states that 65.4 percent of all pot businesses offer dental, compared to 50 percent of other US businesses. Weed businesses also exceed the national average for 401(k) plans (19 percent for pot firms vs. 35 percent of other businesses) and vision plans (59.6 percent vs. 35 percent nationally).

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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