Summer Business: Cannabis Job Market Surges

By Hilary Corrigan
Jun 24, 2020
A Portland, Ore. dispensary. (Getty Images)

Also in Summer Business Week: 1) Sales Hold Up, As Consumer Dynamics Shift 2) Brands Retool for Pandemic 3) Dispensaries are Cautiously Optimistic

The “already strong” cannabis job market is only getting stronger, according to David Belsky, CEO of staffing company FlowerHire.

The surging market owes to new markets and new stores opening throughout the U.S. It also got a boost from the industry’s “essential” designation, which kept businesses open to serve customers.  

According to New Frontier Data, the U.S. had 340,000 legal-market jobs in 2019. The total could grow to 743,000 by 2025, without federal legalization.

Between 2018 and 2019, the number of jobs increased by nearly 82,000 and legal-market wages totaled $12.4B in 2019. With full federal legalization, the number of jobs could grow to 1.63 million in 2025, with nearly $59.5B in wages.

In the spring, FlowerHire saw an increase in hiring for delivery drivers and production workers. That followed businesses’ shift to delivery and curbside pick-up services as they continued operating during the lockdowns.

After the 4/20 holiday, Belsky says, companies returned to pre-COVID levels of interviewing for more senior positions like managers, directors and accountants. The company sees growing demand in states like Michigan and Massachusetts as REC businesses seek to hire. 

People with financial and accounting skill sets are especially in demand. The heavily regulated industry has traditionally lacked finance professionals. “You need to have that skill set within your organization,” Belsky said.

This also applies to people with supply chain, demand planning, forecasting and cost accounting experience to ensure products can meet anticipated demand at profitable prices.

Belsky has also seen an increase in demand for human resources professionals, likely spurred by COVID and concerns over infection, labor law and related issues.

That was growing before the pandemic, but has increased as it put more demands on HR functions. Belsky expects all of these trends to continue through summer.


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‘Very well-positioned’

Belsky hasn’t seen a hiring slowdown and doesn’t expect to this summer. He also doesn’t expect the usual summer hiring lull that can occur in all industries as people vacation and travel. This summer, more people are out of work, at home, and working from virtual offices.

Matt Rizzetta, CEO of North 6th Agency, a New York public relations firm, says his cannabis clients are recruiting white collar talent. A few years ago, most jobs went to growers and budtenders. 

“Those jobs remain steady,” Rizzetta said. But now, there’s also more hiring of executive, operations, sales and marketing jobs. “Much more corporate positions,” he said. And the positions are more stable than they were just a few years ago.

There’s also more competition from leaders of non-cannabis sectors trying to get in. The industry is attracting a different level of talent now, and cannabis sector jobs are more sustainable than those in other sectors, Rizzetta said.

Rizzetta sees cannabis as one of the sectors—along with others like remote work products, software services and cleaning products—that are “very well-positioned” right now.