How to get a job in the cannabis industry

With the onset of legal cannabis sweeping through the world, have you ever wondered what it would be like to work in the cannabis space?

As someone who has started a business in the space and also worked for BC Cannabis Stores, the provincial retailer of non-medical cannabis in British Columbia, I'm often asked about working in the legal cannabis space. Read on to find my top tips for breaking into the industry. 

1. Work out your options

Firstly, you'll have to work out what your options are, based on the legality of cannabis in your country or region. If you live in the Middle East, your options are rather limited if you're not willing to relocate. In Canada, you have many options for working with medical or recreational cannabis. The UK is somewhat a middle ground, where cannabis is still a controlled substance, however there is still ample opportunity to work legally in the industry, here's a few examples:

  • Working with one of the many CBD Companies
  • The paraphernalia space (e.g headshops, vaporizers etc)
  • On the academic side of things doing cannabinoids and terpene research 
  • Providing a valuable service to cannabis companies

This is just a start, there are many other possibilities you may consider. 

2. Pick an area of interest

It makes sense to start wide so you consider all options, but you'll want to hone into a specific area of focus so you can make a targeted action plan (spoiler alert, that's step 3). If you already have a good idea of what you want to focus on, ask yourself why? What do you think a typical day would be like? Do you know anyone that's already doing something similar? If so, ask them what it's like, what are their favourite and least favourite parts about the job? If you don't know anyone, LinkedIn is a good place to find people in specific job roles and connect with them. You might gain insights that you didn't already have that will either reinforce your decision or cause you to reevaluate. Either outcome is beneficial to you.

Starting a business vs working for a business

Legal cannabis has paved the way for a thriving network of small business owners, which is a wonderful thing! If you're planning on starting a business, you'll have a different set of actions to consider such as funding, a business plan and you'll have to be ready to navigate numerous challenges that other regular business don't have to, on top of all of the usual challenges associated with starting a business. For example, you'll need to find specialist banks, payment gateways, insurance services and you won't be able to advertise on popular platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. 

These are just some things to bear in mind, and it's for this reason I recommend starting your business as a side hustle alongside your regular job to begin with, so you're not putting high pressure on yourself to achieve results immediately. This way, you can iron out bumps in the road without risking the entire failure of the business. You'll also be able to take things at your own pace, which is a great asset to have in the beginning.

Choosing to instead work for a company in the cannabis industry, you'll have the security of a predictable income and will have the chance to learn on the job. Depending on your prior experience you may have to be realistic about what level of job you might be able to land to begin with. That's ok, as sometimes getting your foot in the door is the hardest part, and once you're in with a company you can dazzle them with your skills, attitude and determination, and work your way up the ranks quickly. 

3. Action Plan!

This is where you take all of the previous thoughts and shape them into an actionable plan. It's always useful to start with the end in mind, so ask yourself "What do I want the outcome to be?" and that is the objective that your action plan should aim to achieve. Try to make it actionable - it should be obvious if you have achieved it or not. 

An important part of your plan is to honestly evaluate your skills compared with the skills needed to successfully to do the job you want, or the business you're wanting to start. If you don't know what type of skills are needed, loop back to the 2nd step and connect with people who can help. 

If there are skills needed that you don't have, make a plan to bridge the gap. Maybe it's a course you can do or perhaps you need to work out how to get funding to start your business. Either way, identifying these areas is an important first step to working out how to acquire the necessary skills needed. 

Try to identify some key milestones and put a timeline to them to keep yourself accountable. Check in with your plan frequently and update it as needed. This will keep you accountable and focused towards achieving your goal.

4. Conclusion - you got this!

Working in the cannabis space is an incredible opportunity that simply hasn't been possible in the past thanks to prohibition. There are many ways to be involved and it's exciting to be a part of such a nascent industry that's evolving so quickly.

Starting a business in this space provides unique challenges, and like the gold rush, not everyone who bought a gold pan found gold. However, if you are prepared to face the hurdles, there is a significant potential payoff in gaining job satisfaction. In the words of Steve DeAngelo, we are one cannabis tribe and should try to support one another as best we can.

I hope you've enjoyed this article and found it helpful.