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22 Aug 2018

Cannabis in the CV: The Cannabis Industry Is Bringing Welcome Jobs to the Coachella Valley—but They Aren't for Everyone

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Finding work in the Coachella Valley is not an easy task—unless you’re looking for a low-paying job without much opportunity for advancement.

Even people with a lot of skills and great work histories have trouble finding satisfying work. I have heard of people with doctorates in Spanish taking jobs as housekeepers just to pay the bills. I came out of the service industry, and taught in the culinary program at a community college for 13 years; I mistakenly assumed my skills would be in high demand when I came to the desert. Instead, I have had to hustle to find meaningful employment.

This is why the jobs the newish and thriving cannabis industry is bringing to the Coachella Valley are needed and welcome.

On Indeed.com alone, at last check, there were 11 local marijuana-industry positions paying $50,000 a year or more listed. It’s estimated that there are approximately 123,000 full-time jobs in the legal cannabis industry in the U.S., with more than a third of those jobs located here in California—and research firm BDS Analytics estimates that number will double in three years.

With all this talk of a “Green Rush,” it is easy to see how people might be drawn to the possibility of stock options and the chance to help build a company—and industry—from the ground floor. However, there are some things to consider when applying for work in the marijuana industry.

First and foremost: Not everyone will be supportive of your new career choice. After 50 years of prohibition, people have built up a lot of prejudices. I have heard stories about people being told that they’re destroying the possibility of future careers outside of the industry, and/or throwing away their current potential. Hopefully, here in California, that will not be the case—but these prejudices do exist and need to be considered. Before I started writing this column for the Independent, I had to take into consideration what friends, family and future employers would think once a Google search of my name turned up regular articles about cannabis.

Since the industry is so new and under development, you should do some research to make sure the company you are applying with is state-licensed. The Bureau of Cannabis Control is working hard to make sure that non-licensed companies are either brought into compliance with state law—or put out of business.

Furthermore, make sure you understand the rules and regulations of the industry—and there are a lot of them. Not only are there a bunch of currently changing state laws; every city has its own set of rules. Knowing the rules will give you a leg up on the competition and show your future employer you’re serious and not just looking for some discount smokes. By the way, it is currently not legal for cannabis companies to give away any product samples. Budtenders are supposed to be paying the same price for the merchandise as any consumer.

As with any job, networking is key. Attending conferences like the recent Palm Springs Cannabis Film Festival and Summit is a way to get yourself noticed; so, too, are job fairs. Locally, the Coachella Valley Cannabis Alliance Network has a monthly networking dinner the first Monday of every month. If you find a company you would like to work for, try to make a connection. If you are looking to be a budtender, go into the dispensary and talk to the current budtenders to make sure it’s a place you would like to work. Alternately, reach out via Linkedin for an informational interview—or to just take someone out for coffee.

Additionally, research the types of jobs that interest you and for which you think you would be qualified. Just because you love smoking pot, that doesn’t mean you are ready to be the CFO of a cannabis company.

Finally—and I would think that this goes without saying, but friends in the industry tell me otherwise—do NOT show up to a job interview stoned. No employer is going to hire someone who comes to an interview impaired.

When it comes to jobs, the cannabis industry is really no different than any other, aside from the rapid rate of expansion and its quickly changing rules and regulations. The industry is becoming less Cheech and Chong and more Harvard Business School every day.

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