Guide to Careers in Cannabis - Interview with a Nurse, Consultant & Founder

We’re not even close to peaking. We’re still way at the beginning. We’re currently on a tiny wave riding in before federal legalization spurs a tsunami.
Jessie Gill, Cannabis Nurse, Consultant & Founder of MarijuanaMommy.com

The US is finally starting to cash in on the cannabis industry. After years of draconian punishments and absurd propaganda, lawmakers have decided that there was just too much money to be made in cannabis, and continuing to deny it was stretching the limits of believability. The result is an entirely new sector of industry—and a boom in career opportunities for those looking to join it.

The multibillion-dollar cannabis market is majorly under-serviced in comparison to the high demand it’s experiencing. This is blue sky territory, where adding the word ‘cannabis’ to a currently operating product or service likely yields a career where there’s room for growth. There’s even a cannabis-focused recruitment platform, Vangst, that helps people find jobs in the cannabis industry. Believe the hype.

“We’re not even close to peaking,” says Jessie Gill, a cannabis nurse and consultant who founded her own online resource for patients and consumers: MarijuanaMommy.com. “We’re still way at the beginning. We’re currently on a tiny wave riding in before federal legalization spurs a tsunami.”

In many ways, it’s still the Wild West for careers in cannabis, where there are few titans of industry and everything is subject to disruption. On one hand, that means immense opportunity. On the other, it opens up the possibility of scam artists looking to cash in on buzz rather than build a sustainable business. It can be difficult for someone just starting their career to distinguish a ground-floor opportunity from a trap door.

“There are tons of great opportunities,” Gill says. “But, like all industries, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Gill advises those seeking careers in cannabis to do their research behind any partnerships or hiring offers and to secure a contract for any services in advance. As a regulated industry, it’s critical that industry players play by the rules, and contracts help ensure that on multiple levels.

But before one considers whether to accept a job offer or not, one has to decide where to apply themselves within the cannabis industry. That can seem like a monumental task when the industry is experiencing such rapid growth in so many different verticals. What if you have the motivation, but don’t know where to apply yourself?

“Most people in the cannabis industry pivoted in,” Gill says, in giving advice to those considering a career in cannabis. “Find a way to take your skills and expertise and pivot them into the cannabis industry.”

Major Areas of Growth for Cannabis Careers

Software

In the past, cannabis businesses were stunted by unfair stigma and disjointed legislation, and, as a result, many turned to less trackable, analog tech like pencil-and-paper. Today, cannabis businesses are asking for what every other modern business needs: software for sales tracking, data analysis, point-of-sale, and online customer support.

Current industry mainstays which provide some of those business tools, like Square, may shy away from involving themselves in the cannabis industry until federal decriminalization takes place. In the meantime, bespoke software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions can step in to bring cannabis businesses into the 21st century in a short amount of time. Flowhub, a Denver-based startup that specializes in compliance and point-of-sale software for cannabis dispensaries, raised $23 million in Series A funding late last year. They aren’t the only players in this space, and there’s plenty of room for more to join.

Education

Cannabis experts don’t have to speak in whispers anymore. And that’s a good thing, because this is an industry and a field of study that has languished under a government-imposed state of ignorance for too long. If cannabis is going to be a big business—and it already is—it should have the educational options and the scientific research to match.

The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy launched the nation’s first master’s program in medical cannabis science and therapeutics just last year. The program covers the basic science of cannabis, its clinical uses, possible adverse effects, and governmental policy. For the first time, we’re going to start seeing institutionally-accredited academic experts in the field of cannabis, who will, in turn, teach a new generation.

The average consumer needs education, too. Cannabis nurses like Jessie Gill provide an important bridge between scientific research, patient treatment, and the layman community. Sales reps at local dispensaries and at more upscale cannabis retail stores are increasingly being expected to act like sommeliers, pharmacists, and Apple Store tech gurus. The public has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to learning about cannabis, and those who can teach it are still in short supply.

Business

As the cannabis industry continues to grow, there’s an increased focus on branding and marketing for businesses to differentiate themselves and reach more customers. Specialized services and boutique agencies have sprouted up to do exactly that. Cannabrand is the world’s first full-service marketing agency dedicated to the cannabis space, providing services such as design, PR, digital marketing, and analytics. They won’t be the last. Already the industry is seeing subtle but important shifts in everything from product presentation to terminology as cannabis becomes further legitimized both internally and externally. You can thank marketing teams for that.

There’s still plenty of red tape. Cannabis business owners need to be aware of regulations across every state and territory they wish to operate in, and those regulations are subject to change at any time. As a result, many are increasingly turning to consulting services, which are rapidly diversifying within the cannabis industry.

Cannabis business consultants typically address the following issues: operations, staffing, licensing, and compliance. But there are also cannabis investment consultants, medical cannabis consultants, and cannabis education consultants. Cannabis consultants can range in size and scale from minnow to mammoth; Viridian Capital Advisors, a cannabis-focused venture capital fund that tracks billion-dollar deals, provides consulting services around capital raising, mergers & acquisitions, corporate development, and valuation.

The Future of Cannabis: Learning From States With Experience

Californians, Oregonians, and Coloradans know plenty about craft beer, third-wave coffee, and organic wine. The cannabis industry is beginning to receive the same treatment as cannabis dispensaries go more upmarket. Startups like PAX Labs, a company which sells sleek disposable vaporizer pens that administer doses set by an app, raised a fitting $420 million last year. Dosist, a competitor, has a storefront that looks much more like an Apple Store than a hippie hangout.

As consumers, Millenials have given birth to the experience economy. The focus is less on a particular product, and more on the way in which that product is delivered. In many cases, the delivery is the product. Eaze, which operates an on-demand cannabis delivery service, raised $65 million in VC funding, and is currently valued at $315 million.

Less obvious experiences may lead to further entry points into the cannabis industry. Ganja Yoga offers classes in 15 cities across North America. In San Francisco, Power Plant Fitness has opened the world’s first cannabis gym. Bud+Breakfast puts a green spin on the AirBnb platform.

With so many avenues for customized experiences, the next opportunity in the cannabis industry could be the one you come up with on your own.

Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog
Writer

Matt Zbrog is a writer and freelancer who has been living abroad since 2016. His nonfiction has been published by Euromaidan Press, Cirrus Gallery, and Our Thursday. Both his writing and his experience abroad are shaped by seeking out alternative lifestyles and counterculture movements, especially in developing nations. You can follow his travels through Eastern Europe and Central Asia on Instagram at @weirdviewmirror. He’s recently finished his second novel, and is in no hurry to publish it.

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