The holiday season is upon us. If you work in cannabis, you know that can mean one thing: you’ll be sitting around the dinner table with your extended family answering questions like “is everyone at your work high all the time?” or the classic “do you get free samples?”
This is understandable. Legal cannabis is still a relatively new industry in states across the country, and it can seem a rather exotic or mystifying field even to many people in states that legalized it years ago.
It is also a highly complex and unique industry with its own myths and misconceptions.
Myth 1: Everyone who works in cannabis is stoned all the time
This may be the most common myth about cannabis. And even a decade after Colorado and Washington legalized recreational cannabis, many people assume that if you work in cannabis, you must be high at work all the time, and your morning work meetings are little more than smoke circles followed by a late morning nap.
The truth is that cannabis is a business like any other. It requires devotion, a serious work ethic, and a clear head to run a successful business and meet the needs of cannabis regulation.
At the same time, cannabis is also a culture and a time-honored hobby for countless millions around the globe. And the industry is where people can openly embrace their love of cannabis without worrying about how it will be reflected in their next performance review.
But that doesn’t mean that being high will be conducive to their work or that their employer will accept smoking on the job - even in cannabis.
Myth 2: Cannabis is a job for burnouts
According to the CannabizTeam’s report Cannabis Jobs and the Economy 2022, “the costs of acquiring and keeping quality team members [in cannabis] keeps rising, fueled by competition for available talent and nationwide salary inflation. Cannabis salaries rose 4% on average in 2021 with compensation for senior executives rising as much as 10%.”
In addition, the recently-published Leafly Jobs Report 2022 found that there are 428,059 full-time cannabis jobs as of January 2022, including more than 107,000 jobs added just over the past year.
The report also found that there are now three times as many cannabis workers as dentists in the United States and more cannabis professionals than hair stylists, barbers, and cosmetologists—combined.
Clearly, cannabis is not solely a job for burnouts and can be a lucrative career path for highly-motivated professionals of all types.
Myth 3: It's super easy to make money
According to a 2022 survey of cannabis businesses conducted by the National Cannabis Industry Association, only 42% of respondents said they are turning a profit. And when you take a closer look at the challenges facing cannabis operators, it's easy to understand why.
These challenges include difficulty accessing banking and other financial services (cited by 72% of survey respondents as their biggest challenge), high state and local taxes, cannabis compliance demands, and robberies and theft. And at all times, legal cannabis operators have to compete with an illicit market that doesn’t have to pay taxes, provide employee benefits or figure out the intricacies of compliance.
Also, over the past year, cannabis operators in states across the country have seen wholesale and retail prices fall in the face of over-supply and market saturation.
Every business and every industry has its challenges, but in cannabis, running a profitable business can be uniquely difficult.
Myth 4: You need to be based on the West Coast or in Colorado
California is arguably the world capital of legal [and illegal] cannabis, and when people across the country think of legalization, chances are Colorado and the Pacific Northwest come to mind.
According to the Leafly job report, California is the top state for marijuana jobs, with 83,607, followed by Colorado, with 38,337. But a closer look at the list may hold some surprises. Two of the top 10 states (Florida and Pennsylvania) do not have legal recreational cannabis and are far from the West Coast or the Rocky Mountains.
But cannabis is also part of a broader employment trend, the dawn of remote work and “The Great Resignation” brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unless someone is looking for a plant-touching job in cultivation or recreational dispensary work, they may be able to find a job in cannabis no matter where they live in or even outside of the country.
Myth 5: You can’t work in cannabis with a criminal record
It’s a common assumption (and myth) that having a criminal record of any sort is a deal-breaker when applying for jobs in cannabis. Luckily, this is not the case.
The criminal record restrictions in cannabis mainly relate to people applying for licenses to own or operate a business. And in some states, including Oregon and Nevada, cannabis workers must receive certification or licensing to work in the industry. In these states, authorities can reject applications for accreditation based on prior felony convictions.
But for most cannabis job applicants, a previous conviction for a non-violent offense or a non-felony drug charge is no longer a deal breaker. In some ways, it can be the opposite - especially for social equity applicants with a personal history of dealing with the slings and arrows of the US criminal justice system.
The bottom line? If an applicant has a criminal record and lives in a state that did not enact automatic expungement measures when it legalized cannabis, it would be advisable to take steps to get the record expunged. You should also try to rest easy, knowing that if a minor marijuana possession charge stays on your record, it doesn’t have to prevent you from working in cannabis.
Myth 7: You need prior experience with cannabis (either at work or just as a hobby)
As the cannabis staffing company Vangst wrote in a 2022 report, “as cannabis companies professionalize, they’re hiring for more and more traditional roles that don’t necessarily require knowledge of the cannabis plant or its history.”
The report continues that most cannabis workers are new to the industry, and 34% have worked in marijuana for less than a year.
When working in the cannabis industry, a real passion for the plant can instill a greater sense of purpose and make the work more rewarding. In addition, stronger familiarity with the plant can better inform cannabis professionals and make them better advocates for legalization and expanded access for patients and consumers of all types.
But professionals from a wide range of backgrounds like marketing, sales, customer service, and human resources can find their experience an excellent fit for the industry - even if cannabis was never a part of their daily life.
Myth 8: You get free samples and can get me free weed
Depending on your job in cannabis, this may not be entirely a myth. But if you work in the industry, it's almost certainly something you’ve heard from a friend or relative - and not always as a joke.
But myths - even if there is a kernel of truth in them - do have a knack for lingering in the face of reality - especially in a new industry like cannabis.