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Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people worldwide have shed their daily commute as sweatpants have become acceptable work attire. Millions have also started to reexamine their career and life goals, with a new focus on maintaining a healthy work-life balance and finding a sense of purpose. 

This phenomenon has come to be known as “The Great Resignation,” an exodus of sorts that has seen employees across all types of industries resign en masse as they seek out the next chapter in their careers. 

What is the Great Resignation?

In a piece headlined “The Great Resignation is Accelerating,” the Atlantic stated that one of the lasting impacts of the pandemic will be “a revolution in worker expectations.”

Far from being symptomatic of people with poor ambition or work ethic, the Atlantic wrote, “this level of quitting is an expression of optimism that says, We can do better.” 

Or, as Bloomberg wrote in May 2021, many people are having  “pandemic-related epiphanies—about family time, remote work, commuting, passion projects, life and death, and what it all means.”

In November 2021, 4.5 million people quit their jobs, an all-time high. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the record-breaking “quit rate” among American workers included a 6.9% rate for accommodation and food service workers (as opposed to 4.8% in November 2020) and 6.4% for leisure and hospitality workers (as opposed to 4.6% in November 2020). Coincidentally or not, these are two of the industries most severely impacted by the pandemic.

This phenomenon is playing out at the same time that the cannabis jobs market is booming. 

As the 2021 Leafly jobs report noted, more than 321,00 full-time cannabis jobs in the United States, including more than 77,000 added in 2020 alone.

“That represents 32% year-over-year job growth, an astonishing figure in the worst year for US economic growth since World War II,” the report's authors noted. 

It’s too early to say how the Great Resignation will impact the cannabis industry, but it’s clear why so many people are looking at cannabis for their next career move.

In 2020, Cannabis became essential 

In March 2020, budtenders became front-line workers. 

Across the U.S. and Canada, authorities ruled that medical and recreational cannabis dispensaries are “essential businesses.” As a result, they were treated much like pharmacies and health care clinics and were allowed to stay open during stay-at-home orders. 

This has helped mainstream cannabis for countless people across North America - even as it remains illegal on the federal level.  

As Karson Humiston of the cannabis staffing website Vangst told Green Entrepreneur in October, “this industry is here to stay, and folks who were maybe sitting on the sidelines, thinking, “Is this too risky of a move to take a career in this space?” – those fears somewhat went away.”

Cannabis - The Ideal Transition from Retail and Food Service?

As the Washington Post put it in September 2021, cannabis isn’t just a Plan B for retail and restaurant workers - it’s “a refuge.” 

The article described how retail and food service workers had found work in cannabis after they were laid off or furloughed in the early days of the pandemic as their employers were cutting back or shutting down altogether. Many found that their customer service and sales experience were easily adaptable for work in dispensaries or as sales representatives for cannabis companies. 

But many are also just looking for a better quality of life. 

Cannabis retail jobs tend to be less hectic and physically demanding than most restaurant jobs, providing a safer, less stressful environment with a better work/life balance. 

Looking for a sense of purpose - in cannabis

If you have any loved ones who work in cannabis or spent time at an industry event, you’ve probably noticed a certain vibe. The industry is full of people who believe it's a calling as well as a job or who can’t quite get over the fact that they get to work in cannabis for a living. 

As David Belsky, CEO of the recruitment firm FlowerHire told the Cannabis Business Times in January 2022, “people, after experiencing the last couple years, have begun to ask, ‘What am I doing? What am I doing with my time? What should I be doing?”

This “pandemic epiphany” has led countless people to seek a purpose-driven career; in cannabis, they may quickly find kindred spirits. 

A 2018 survey on cannabis industry employee engagement found that of the 180 participants, nearly three-quarters of all respondents were either very (38%) or somewhat satisfied (36%) with their current employment. The survey also found that working for a purpose-driven company for 43.65% of respondents was “very important.” A further 38.67% said it was somewhat important.  

It’s easy to understand some of the purpose-driven appeal of the marijuana industry. For instance, working in medical cannabis can be a way for exhausted healthcare professionals to still use their training in a way that helps people in their community. For dispensary workers who genuinely believe in the therapeutic benefits of cannabis (medical or recreational), a retail job in the industry can be personally rewarding.   

The social justice protests of 2020 also highlighted for many people the inequalities of the criminal justice system in America, including when it comes to the War on Drugs. Helping make the cannabis industry more diverse and inclusive can be a source of purpose, especially for founders or employees from disenfranchised communities that bore the brunt of the War on Drugs. 

More states are legalizing

As the Great Resignation picked up speed in 2020, so did the cause of cannabis legalization. On Election Day 2020, five states passed marijuana legalization initiatives, and in 2021, five more states enacted recreational cannabis legalization. 

As the legal cannabis industry expands, there are more and more job openings to fill. These include many jobs that need people with the skills and experience gained in sales, marketing, writing, and customer service positions. 

And the newfound acceptance of remote work means that even people who don’t live in states with a legal cannabis market can find jobs in the industry in positions like marketing or business development that don’t require working in-person with cannabis products. 

How to Resign Greatly - Into Cannabis 

If you’re wondering how to get a job in cannabis, it’s similar to how you would look for a career in most industries. First, you should take time to determine what interests you about the industry and which types of roles you think would fit your work experience. Like any job search, take some time to reach out to people in your personal and professional network who are in the industry and may know about job openings or be able to give you some advice. 

Improving your knowledge of cannabis is also a great idea. Carve out some time to attend cannabis meet-ups or view industry webinars from home. In addition, a cannabis education course can be a great way to boost your knowledge about the plant, the industry, and the conversations and trends driving the world of marijuana today. 

For more, check out our post on How to Get a Job in Cannabis

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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.

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