scorecardWe spoke to the top recruiters in the booming cannabis business. Here are their 3 best tips for landing your dream job in the industry.
  1. Home
  2. Science
  3. Health
  4. We spoke to the top recruiters in the booming cannabis business. Here are their 3 best tips for landing your dream job in the industry.

We spoke to the top recruiters in the booming cannabis business. Here are their 3 best tips for landing your dream job in the industry.

We spoke to the top recruiters in the booming cannabis business. Here are their 3 best tips for landing your dream job in the industry.
LifeScience6 min read


AP Photo/Hans Pennink

Mariah Redmound works in the formulation room making medical marijuana products during a media tour of the Curaleaf medical cannabis cultivation and processing facility Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, in Ravena, N.Y.

  • Cannabis companies are growing rapidly. They're a great place to look for jobs from entry-level retail positions all the way up to senior management.
  • To get a sense of how to best land a job in the booming industry, Business Insider spoke to some of the top recruiters in the cannabis world.
  • They told us their best tips, and explained why being passionate about cannabis isn't enough to land a new role.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

If you're looking for a new gig, the burgeoning cannabis industry is probably a good place to start.

As the industry grows and cannabis becomes legal in more parts of the US, the number of cannabis-related job postings has quadrupled, from 231 per million in May 2016 to 915 per million in May 2019, according to data from the job search site Indeed.

More people are looking for jobs in the industry as well. Over the same time period, cannabis-related job searches have skyrocketed 650%.

"There are very few industries that have seen a sevenfold increase in job-seeker searches in three years," Andrew Flowers, an economist at Indeed and the author of a recent report on cannabis hiring told Business Insider in an August interview.

While reliable numbers are hard to come by, a recent report from the Toronto-based investment bank Echelon Wealth Partners predicts the US cannabis industry will become a $60 billion market if legalized federally, up from under $20 billion under the patchwork laws today.

The cannabis industry is complex, and companies are hiring people with a range of backgrounds, from entry-level retail to senior-level finance and M&A positions, to pharmacists, biochemists, and horticulture experts.

To get a sense of how to best land a job in the booming industry, Business Insider spoke to some of the top recruiters in the cannabis world.

Here are their best tips.

Tip #1: Bring a 'startup' mindset

Like any new, exciting space, cannabis companies are growing rapidly. But unlike many other industries, cannabis companies are operating in a murky legal climate where regulations are constantly shifting and businesses are sometimes forced to pivot on a dime.

"People call it 'cannabis time' because things are just moving so fast," said Katherine Kramer, a research associate at the executive search firm Whitney Partners. "You have to be very comfortable with uncertainty and a constantly changing market."

Karson Humiston, the CEO of Denver, Colorado-based Vangst, a startup that places job candidates into cannabis companies, agrees.

"There's a ton of hype around the cannabis industry right now," Humiston said.

If you're coming from a big, established company where everything is organized and every department is laid out with standard operating procedures, you may have a tough transition into the cannabis world "where every company is still a startup," she said.

Read more: 'It's a once in a decade opportunity': How top VC firms like Greycroft and Lerer Hippeau are cautiously opening their doors to the potentially $194 billion cannabis industry

"Don't go into cannabis if you want to be able to hide behind other people," Humiston said. "You need to go in being ready to provide value and roll up your sleeves and do a ton of different jobs."

To Humiston, the most successful candidates in cannabis have come from hyper-growth startups in other industries. "They get ready to pivot and jump a million ways and they're excited and energized by all the changes," she said.

On that front, Ed Schmults, the CEO of the cannabis company Calyx Peak Capital, previously told Business Insider he's focused on recruiting "nimble" employees from small startups.

"I think what you really want at the start of an industry are people who've been involved in smaller companies who can work fast, be nimble, and wear multiple hats," Schmults said.

The top cannabis employers in the US in 2019

Yutong Yuan/Business Insider

Tip #2: Look at US cannabis retailers (multi-state operators) and cannabis tech startups. Bonus if you have finance experience.

As cannabis companies mature, they're looking for senior executives across accounting, finance, marketing, and retail roles to help build out their teams.

One of the biggest trends that Humiston said she's seen this year is publicly traded US cannabis companies is that they're leveling up their teams by hiring more experienced leaders.

These companies, like Green Thumb Industries, Columbia Care, and Cresco, among others, are expanding rapidly into new markets and have "really aggressive" growth goals, she said.

"They need that level of VPs, executives, and directors who have experience in traditional retail and other mature industries," said Humiston, especially as these companies go from managing, say, three or four pot shops in one state, to a network of hundreds of stores across many states - all with their own specific regulations.

Read more: CBD and hemp startups are using creative loopholes to skirt Facebook's ad ban. Here's how they're doing it.

On top of that, cannabis companies, like any other emerging industry, are increasingly fighting for market share and hunting for acquisitions. That means they're in a period where they're raising lots of capital, so they need financial experts and people with investment banking experience.

"Companies maybe went from having a more entry-level bookkeeper to really saying, okay, we need to hire a CFO," says Humiston. "I think that what's happening is you're bringing in that top-level person - potentially a CFO or the VP of finance - and then they're getting involved and saying, here are six additional accounting rules that we need to support this growing business. And so we've seen just a ton of finance roles this year."

Read more: These execs are leaving behind careers at companies like Coke and Victoria's Secret to tap into the $194 billion marijuana industry

A quick scan of cannabis retailer Green Thumb Industry's open jobs reveals hundreds of open positions across every division from human resources, to retail, to accounting.

And like any other business, there's high turnover among entry-level retail and cultivation employees.

"There's a constant need to recruit budtenders and entry-level horticulturalists," Humiston said.

Besides the bigger, publicly-traded cannabis companies, tech startups that serve the industry - like cannabis marketplace LeafLink or cannabis vaporizer company Pax - are also growing rapidly, according to Humiston.

Pax, for its part, has over a hundred job openings in multiple states for positions ranging from sales to user experience research.


REUTERS/Amir Cohen

An employee holds a leaf of a medical cannabis plant at Pharmocann, an Israeli medical cannabis company in northern Israel January 24, 2019.

Tip #3: Being passionate about cannabis isn't enough

While cannabis companies may certainly appreciate a candidate being passionate about the product, you need to bring "hard skills" to the table, says Humiston.

"Saying, 'I love cannabis' isn't enough," Humiston said. "Now companies need real hard skills and real hard experience that are going to add value to their business."

Kramer, from Whitney Partners, said employers in cannabis are looking for experienced workers.

"Having an industry background is super helpful," says Kramer. "Whether its consumer retail, industrial, or cultivation, there are so many subsectors in cannabis.

Kramer's best advice: "find your niche and run with it."

And don't be scared to switch up your geography if you really want to land a cannabis job. Humiston said Oklahoma, which legalized cannabis for medical use last year, has one of the fastest-growing cannabis industries in the US. It's a direct effect of the number of medical licenses the state has issued.

"We've seen a ton of growth in states like Oklahoma, Florida, and Nevada this year," says Humiston.

For those of you who are still in school, Humiston expects cannabis companies to recruit from colleges and universities with cannabis programs - like Niagara University in Ontario.

"It's still early days," Humiston said. "It's a great chance for people to get in with a company and be a part of building the industry."

Join Digital Health Pro