Every day we are contacted by strangers or approached by acquaintances wanting a leg up in the booming cannabis industry. We receive several calls, texts and messages with grow room questions weekly and people will contact us with concentrate questions often while their batch of RSO or hash is in progress. We don’t mind these inquiries at all and neither do most growers and weed workers. In fact, we encourage them. We have been in the closet for so long that we welcome open conversation about cannabis. We are grateful for those who have touched our lives and let us touch their life throughout our cannabis journey.
However, there are some things about the cannabis trade none of us are honest about. There are traits to the cannabis industry and cannabis producers that everyone should know. Things like office protocol and basic employee rights have not completely become mainstream in the marijuana trade and being truthful about the traits of the trade might make the grass on our side of the fence a little less green.
The most important thing to remember is that no one “bursts on the scene” in the cannabis trade. So many are willing to leave careers they have worked years at and expect that the hierarchy those years allowed still applies in the weed trade. So many think because they work the service counter at a dealership they can work the counter of a bud room. Their customer service skills are far better than the hippie who served them when they visit the dispensary. But that hippie knows every strain they offer and has been growing since the eighties….he knows weed as well as the dealership employee knows cars.
Now imagine that hippie walking into the car dealership, pointing at the service writer or salesman and saying “I want that job, I’ve been selling weed for years so it should be easy for me.” That’s where the honesty in our responses is lacking. We have been hiding our grows, ducking the law, keeping up with innovation and legalizing herb for years. Now that it’s legal in some states those states are being flooded with job seekers and these job seekers need to realize that burning herb is not learning herb. We are not being honest when we tell you a dispensary might look at the weed you grew in your closet because we can’t tell you about the pounds we just sold the growers group that dispensary purchases from. We can’t tell you about the years we grew for the black market just to learn. We can’t show you the real ropes of the cannabis trade because those ropes are still illegal to climb in many ways. Those ropes of the trade were felonies and prison sentences when older growers climbed them. We can’t tell you that if you don’t know the difference between a Sativa and Indica just by looking at one leaf you are at grade school level against doctorates when seeking a career in cannabis.
Let’s take a look at four sought after cannabis careers and some real life experiences so you know a little of what to expect and see if you stack up to what will be expected of you.
- Marijuana Grower—Aww yes! You’re going to buy a couple lights and become a pot grower. You have converted a shed, closet or spare room into a little grow room and bought yourself some clones….in 8 short weeks, you’ll be selling some weed. Get real. Most dispensary owners were growing weed when it was still a felony or they are the business-minded friend of a grower. Either way one or both of them has already formed a growers group or farm that they buy from. If they do buy street weed you are in a very long line of growers who have been at it a long time. Your weed must be tested and mold free, legally grown and you better have a lot of it. If you are planning on buying clones from a dispensary and selling the harvested flower back to them to finance your weed habit and the money you spent on lights you are dreaming. Perhaps you’ve made some weed butter or brownies that are a step above the rest. Is your kitchen certified and do you have a food handler card? No sale if you don’t. The haphazard sales between hippie and stoner or grower and patient exists only in three places—festivals, the street and the fantasies of aspiring growers. It’s tough out there now. It used to be that anyone could grow weed and most users would purchase whatever their dealer had. This is not the case anymore….even high school sack slingers know good weed now and will turn their nose up at mediocre schwag. So maybe you’ll work for a farm to get your feet wet, right? Growers are the most narcissistic breed of people you will ever meet…imagine a rock star attitude without the fame. You will be paid little or in weed and you will have to obey them like they were a genius….most of them will refer to them self as such. On our last farm as laborers, we were given housing but little salary. These jobs are hard to find and there is a line to replace you if you get one. Therefore you will put up with everything…or be replaced quickly.
- Trimmers and grow room labor—If freedom is what you are looking for this is probably the best avenue to pursue. Trimming marijuana while its wet (as soon as the plant is cut) is far superior to trimming bud when it’s dry. The buds are easier to handle without breaking, the weed looks better and you can have your concentrates made before the buds are cured. However, the larger the operation is the harder this is to accomplish. It’s impossible with large outdoor grows which means there is always a lot of dry weed to trim in the fall. Our room had 10 indoor plants in 25-gallon pots and each plant has its own light. We produce about 11 pounds and it takes 2 days for 3 people to trim it. We work for a crew with 24 plants about the same size and it takes 6 of us 5 days. They have three on their crew and hire three more to trim. Our rooms are small and legal. Growers will load rooms with indoor plants and hire trimmers. Keep in mind that a room with over 36 plants is most likely black market and illegal. Large indoor grow rooms are hard to get permits for. In most cases 24 of the plants are legal and the rest are illegal overages so use your discretion. Someone competent at trimming can run an ad on Craigslist and keep working pretty steady. Most likely they will be hired for fall harvests and larger jobs as their reputation grows. Trimmers are often hauled to locations and locked in. They sit for hours trimming weed while passing joints, shatter, bongs, edibles etc…many people have literally hit the floor trimming with us. When they wake up they are paid, excused and sent home. Oh, and by the way…no talking. That’s right, not a word or you’ll get sent home with the dude who passed out. You will come across friendly crews that chat while the goats roam through their house and chatty families with a grow room but silent trimmers are productive trimmers as you will find most growers are into productivity.
- Budtender A budtender job is not a high-income job but it is a great place to start. Strain knowledge is a must. Strain knowledge has to be more than just a list of names and favorites or tall tales about where you smoked certain flavors. Strain knowledge has to be actual knowledge of the strain like medicinal traits, THC/CBD content, and flavor. Some customers will approach weed like it’s a wine and you must possess the taste and knowledge of a connoisseur. Some use weed as their only medicine and you must possess the statistics and accuracy of a pharmacist….and both customers might be with you at the same time. A budtender is a bartender, wine host, barista, pharmacist and healer all wrapped in one easy to get along with salesperson. Budtenders are the unsung heroes of the cannabis trade. A job in a bud room is a great place to start and can turn into a great career. These jobs are easy to find but hard to be chosen for and don’t think it’s going to be easy if you land one. Every dispensary has secretary and host positions which are easier to get and many budtenders work their way up from there. You will be paid in cash and security will always be on your mind.
- Black market sack slinger Well, if you can’t find happiness on the legal side of the law you can always find excitement, risk and a good amount of cash on the black market. In any weed legal state cannabis sells for 1100-2000 dollars per pound on the black market. In these states, it’s very easy to find growers that will sell to you in bulk. Schwag runs about $1100/lb while top shelf indoor will cost you about $2000. In states where weed is illegal, that weed is now 3200-4000 dollars per pound. People are moving to weed-legal states, buying the good stuff then sending it home to their friends. It’s very risky and illegal yet equally popular and a growing industry while states figure out their laws. The black market is tempting to growers in legal states. Old school growers can now come out of the closet in weed-legal states and talk about our profession but the price for doing that was over half the income from cannabis crops. Small time sack slingers usually get fronted (weed without paying) a quarter pound or so of cannabis and sell it locally or to friends then pay when they reload their sack…thus “sack slinger”. These people also have great income but even more risk. As legalization took hold with med cards and then our home state of Oregon legalized recreationally as well we chose to leave the black market…many of our friends and associates didn’t. It is way easier to profit on the black market but as weed laws focus more on regulation the black market becomes even riskier.
If you still think the grass is greener on the cannabis side of the fence then, by all means, please come on over. Don’t be discouraged but you should know what to expect and have a little respect when you finally get that cannabis job….and there’s more. Once you do find a position in a dispensary or on a pot farm you have just punched your ticket to the largest passive aggressive ego festival on the planet. You will be used and humiliated in ways that your current boss would never dream of and the ones trying to humiliate you will be people and coworkers you call friends.
Everybody wants your job… do not forget that. Federal legalization has not yet happened so dispensaries and producers can’t use banks and cash paid daily or weekly makes any job a great job so watch your back. We have seen medical patients and recreational users both try to create budtender openings by filing false complaints on budtenders and secretaries within dispensaries to sabotage budtenders to get their job. Of course, office politics exist everywhere but marijuana brings with it product desire not seen since prohibition or the gold rush creating sometimes volatile work environments.
There is no business model for a dispensary and business professionals have labeled weed taboo (even if they used ) until just recently. Young progressive cannabis advocates lack experience and salty old growers lack conformity. Eager business investors lack weed knowledge and rock star growers lack leadership skills. Very rarely will you find good weed and good business sense in the entry level jobs but you will find an enormous lack of respect.
Temper tantrums from adults that you might tolerate from a three-year-old, passive aggressive manipulation, office politics without the barrier of employee rights, illegal activity, bad people skills, horrible customer service, blatant violations of regulations and an endless supply of customers will be a normal part of every day.
Once the U.S. government decriminalizes marijuana it will all change. Once the taboo of restriction is removed and banking is allowed corporate America will storm the gates of the cannabis culture and the haphazard business practices will disappear. Dispensaries are operating software they don’t know how to use. Simple office tasks like scheduling often escape management of large staffs and basic office protocols have simply never been learned. When weed is legal and corporate America meets cannabis America it’s the corporate players that will get to keep playing with the weed. Their business management skills will be far more valuable than the weed skills of the staff in place.
Cannabis America is that far behind when it comes to office management and leadership…..and they don’t even know it.