Finding a Job in Denver’s Marijuana Industry
The combined legal sales of recreational and medical marijuana totaled more than $996.2 million in Colorado in 2015. According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, there were 2,586 licensed facilities as of February 1, 2016, comprising 1,475 medical marijuana businesses and 1,111 licensed retail marijuana businesses. The state collected more than $135 million in taxes and fees. These numbers are all significantly higher than the figures from 2014.
Colorado legalized recreational marijuana sales in January 2014, and there is no sign that the growth of this market will slow. Many of the medical and retail marijuana businesses are anticipating expansion of their stores and increases in employee numbers. LivWell, for instance, has already opened four stores in Colorado. The company employs more than 500 people, each with access to a full benefits package, including vacation, health insurance, and a 401(k) plan.
The marijuana job market in Denver is expanding rapidly. According to a report by Vox.com, “The Marijuana Industry Group (MIG) estimates there are currently about 10,000 people directly involved with marijuana, with 1,000 to 2,000 joining in the past few months.”
A summary of Marijuana Use Patterns in Colorado, authored by Lisa Barker of the Department of Health and Environment, noted, “Based on limited data from Colorado adult marijuana users, it appears that among those who use marijuana, more than half (64%) use [it] more than eight times per month (IFHL 2014).” This same study found that 19% of Coloradans older than 18 reported marijuana use within the last 12 months.
Common Careers in the Colorado Marijuana Industry
There are numerous jobs available in the Denver weed industry, including edible creator, concentrates processor, courier and deliverer, security personnel, and many more. Applicants must be 21 years or older to hold any job involving the sale or handling of marijuana. All of these jobs, except for the reviewer, require background checks. Furthermore, many of these jobs require a working knowledge of Colorado marijuana laws and compliance requirements.
An edible creator conceives new variations for marijuana-infused products. Current offerings include mints, crunchy bars, soda, lasagna, and baked goods. Although the majority of Colorado marijuana users report smoking pot rather than any other alternative, both retail and medical establishments prefer to have these colorful edible alternatives available. A person who wants to break into this career should have a background in culinary arts as well as the ability to think creatively. This is a competitive career and is highly regulated, as ingredients and THC levels must be listed appropriately. Salaries range from $28,000 to $40,000.
A concentrates processor extracts the plant oil to create dabs, hash oil, and shatter. It is a highly skilled position, and successful applicants must have backgrounds in chemistry and a familiarity with chemicals and laboratory equipment. Because marijuana sales have been legal for only a short time, a concentrates processor may not have experience in a lab; however, any background in chemistry or a related field will make a candidate suitable. Extracting the oils requires high heat and chemicals, both of which can make this a dangerous position. Although this job is potentially dangerous, the pay scale is similar to the edible creator.
Couriers and Delivery Personnel
Couriers and delivery services are popular in the medical marijuana community, since many customers are unable to go to a dispensary. A car or bicycle is required for this position, but the successful applicant will be personable and able to interact well with people. It is predicted that marijuana delivery will soon be as commonplace as pizza delivery.
Security will continue to grow alongside medical dispensaries and retail locations. When marijuana was first legalized in Colorado for the medical market, security was one of the first concerns. However, due to the large amount of money that changes hands in the retail stores, it is likely that security will always be a consideration in the industry. Many of the security jobs listed online require the ability to carry a sidearm.
Reviewers sample different strains and products, including hybrid and specialty strains, and provide feedback to potential customers. Reviewers who are themselves treating specific medical conditions with marijuana will be in highest demand. These reviewers will be able to address specific user questions about symptom alleviation, side effects, and interactions. These are mostly freelance journalist positions, and the pay is minimal.
A trimmer is someone who makes the product shelf-ready. Trimming is extremely tedious. Essentially, the trimmer creates an aesthetically pleasing end product. It is an art form that takes many hours of practice to perfect. A trimmer can expect to make $12 to $15 an hour. At least one company offers $20,000 to $40,000 for a gifted full-time trimmer, capable of traveling to different businesses throughout the Denver metro area.
Budtender is the name used for the counter person, and is reportedly one of the most rewarding jobs in the industry. He is similar to a bartender or waiter in his ability to discuss the products available. He will assist the customer in making a selection to fit their needs and objectives. A budtender will not only need extensive knowledge of the offerings of the store or dispensary, but also be capable of identifying allergies or issues a customer may have.
A consumer will likely spend the majority of his time in the dispensary discussing his needs with the budtender, so the worker’s extensive knowledge will be tapped with every exchange. Pay is $10 to $15 an hour plus tips, although some high end-stores offer salaries in the $40,000 range, plus bonuses. These positions are highly competitive; upscale stores have sales quotas as well as high standards for the individual knowledge base.
Pot farmers will continue to be a necessary part of the marijuana industry. As with all farmers, this can be a risky venture due to temperature, pests, humidity, and other variables. Furthermore, an expansive knowledge of nutrient requirements and soil conditions, fungi, bacteria, and natural treatments are all required.
Harvesting and selling the seeds or clones (infant plants) is a specialty within the farming career. There are numerous legal requirements that one must meet to sell the seeds legally, however. A director of cultivation position, although not in Colorado, posted recently on 420careers.com offers compensation of $100,000 and up, commensurate with experience.
Processing managers oversee teams of nursery workers, ensuring quality-controlled harvesting, drying, curing, processing, and packaging. There are manager positions at each level of the marijuana industry, ranging from the farm to the labs, kitchens, and retail storefronts. These positions typically have a salary range starting at $50,000.
Colorado has seen an increase in tourism since the legalization of recreational marijuana. Because of this, there are a number of companies in the start-up stage hoping to tap into this potential revenue stream. As of last year, nearly 49% of Colorado’s summer tourists vacationed there because of the state’s marijuana laws.
Tourism entrepreneurs will need to develop relationships with growing operations, trimmers, processors, and storefronts. Guided tours of farms, following the path of marijuana from seed in the ground to bud on the shelf, are still in the infancy stage. But with the continued industry growth, it is likely the tourism industry will grow alongside it.