<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=335994581855197&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Thousands of years before Colorado and Washington legalized recreational cannabis, the plant was already used in East Asia to make fibers, clothing, and for ritual intoxication. Perhaps that’s why many people don’t understand that the industry has a start-up mentality that belies the plant's ancient pedigree. 

Talking Cannabis_ (1)

“A lot of people who go into cannabis think it’s going to be like a general industry and don’t know that they’re getting into a startup industry and it creates a lot of turnover,” Blake Watson of Reefer Gigs told Rootwurks. 

“What many people don’t understand is that they will also be asked to fill some other roles within the company that they didn’t sign up for,” Watson said, describing the all hands on deck, startup culture of the cannabis industry. 

He also said that many people on the cannabis job search don’t fully grasp the amount of work required and some may have a misconception that in cannabis people sit around at work smoking marijuana all day.  

Watson is the founder and CEO of Reefer Gigs, a cannabis recruitment firm. The company’s name and slogan - “it’s madness hiring in cannabis” - are a deft nod to the widely-lampooned 1936 anti-cannabis film Reefer Madness.

Watson said the company is focused on passive job placement for people in management positions or higher. These job seekers typically come from outside of the cannabis industry and would like to test the waters in cannabis, while they’re still employed at their current job. The company also helps cannabis companies find the staff they need. 

Watson launched Reefer Gigs on 4/20/2021, after years spent working in sales and branding for tech companies in Austin, where he is located. Drawing on these experiences and the connections he made, he turned to cannabis. But the path to the industry arguably began years earlier, in Afghanistan. 

“We Had a Tough Deployment”

From June 2006 to September 2010, Watson served as a specialist in the U.S. Army. He was deployed to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010 and was awarded the Combat Infantryman's Badge and the Campaign Medal. Soldiers from his platoon were featured in a 2010 Associated Press video titled “Battalion Hit Hard in Afghan War.” 

Watson described taking part in a firefight that stretched more than 7 hours in the Afghan desert and the extreme stress that he and some of his fellow soldiers tried to ease by smoking hashish in Afghanistan. He also experienced the well-known post-military sensation of trying to shift back to normal civilian life. 

“We had a tough deployment. We went to Afghanistan and there’s just no way to transition back to being a normal guy. You’re used to being on a heightened sense of alert for a long period of time and it’s hard to turn it off. You’re just a little bit different than everybody else.”

Convinced that other members of his platoon sacrificed more than he, it took Watson a long time to seek help. Finally, five years after returning from his deployment he received a diagnosis of PTSD and started counseling with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Today he is a patient in the limited medical marijuana program in Texas.

“The easy answer for American medicine is to write something on a pen pad, to give you a pharmaceutical answer,” Watson said, adding that the VA was not able to recommend or prescribe his cannabis because it is federally illegal. 

Why Do So Many Veterans Turn to Cannabis?

Watson said there are probably a million reasons why a lot of veterans work in the cannabis industry, and that “for the most part, veterans are trying to find a medical approach to their healing and trauma.  

When asked what it would take to get more veterans into the cannabis industry, Watson siad federal legalization is a must and that it would lead to an outpouring of support from organizations that are looking to help veterans work in cannabis.  

“I think once our federal regulation catches up (with cannabis legalization), women, minorities, and veterans will all excel in the cannabis industry as a whole,” Watson said. 

“Be Selective”

When asked for his top advice for cannabis job seekers, Watson said “I think people should treat it [cannabis jobs] like anything else and be selective.”

He added that people should find something that they really want to do and while many may be driven to work in cannabis regardless of the position, “work is work and it’s all going to be painful at the end of the day but this way you enjoy it.”

The past few years in cannabis have been very rocky. A pandemic-era surge quickly faded into oversupply and price compression in cannabis markets around the country as companies found themselves unable to make a living selling cannabis. 

But while a dark cloud has been hanging over the industry, Watson is optimistic. 

“We’re at a low but that’s a great time to get in. There’s a lot of startups right now that are reaching out to us for help in building their executive team so there’s a lot of growth coming.”

Watson added “I don't want to be a doomsday guy because that’s not the case by any means. When things are down, that's when everybody should getting in and that's when everybody needs to become a player. Because it’s only up from here.”







Leave a Comment


Ben Hartman, Content Manager

Ben Hartman is a cannabis writing and marketing professional with over 15 years of experience in journalism and digital content creation. Ben was formerly the senior writer and research and analysis lead for The Cannigma.

Read More


From best practices at the dispensary counter to cannabis grow safety tips and the ins and outs of cannabis terpenes, there is a world of knowledge to be gained form our free educational content. To see our guides, eBooks, webinars, reports, expert interviews, and video tutorials, check out the Rootwurks library of free resources.

Free Guide: In Cannabis Quality Control, Compliance Can Be Your Friend and Ally

Free Guide: In Cannabis...

2 Min Read

As legalization expands and cannabis becomes more mainstream, the consumer base is becoming more mature and sophisticated in its quality demands. This can be seen in a greater...

Learn More
Free Guide: How Can Dispensaries Stand Out From the Crowd? 

Free Guide: How Can...

2 Min Read

Few industries hold more promise than retail cannabis. 

Learn More
Free Guide: Why Budtender is Far From Just an Entry-Level Job

Free Guide: Why Budtender...

2 Min Read

With all due respect to the celebrities with cannabis brands, the cultivators with decades of experience, and the marijuana influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers,...

Learn More
Guide: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Cannabis Compliance in 2022

Guide: The Good, the Bad,...

2 Min Read

When people daydream about running a cannabis business, the images often follow a familiar script: perfectly cured buds in jars behind the counter, collaborations with local craft...

Learn More