Kristina Etter   |   January 31, 2023

New Cannabis Jobs Report Shines Light on Salaries

The cannabis industry is hiring. Here’s a look at cannabis jobs, salaries, and benefits and the risks and rewards of working in weed.
Kristina Etter spent 20 years in corporate IT with a niche in mobile technology and IoT in agriculture. Today, she combines her love of technology with a passion for cannabis as the Editorial Director for Cannabis Tech.

Cannabis industry jobs, like many others, are in a constant state of flux as the nation struggles with inflation and economic uncertainty. Plenty of headlines coined the legal cannabis industry as “pandemic-proof.” However, as inflation continues to slow down spending, it has become painfully evident that the industry is not recession-proof, and many cannabis companies are taking a hard look at their bottom line.

Inflation has significantly impacted salaries and wages in the United States. Over the past few years, cost of living increases have outpaced raises in salaries and wages, leading to a decrease in the purchasing power of Americans. The unbalance leaves many people feeling the pinch in their pocketbooks. As prices continue to rise, wages must be adjusted to meet the needs of the workforce.

Until now, the cannabis industry has played a fascinating role in providing jobs and boosting the economy. During the pandemic, after being deemed essential in many states, the industry boomed as consumers had an overabundance of time and stimulus money.

Yet, as the news of layoffs ripples through the cannabis tech sector, it’s important to take a step back and look at the industry as a whole. The recently published Cannabis Industry Salary Guide from Vangst provides deep insights into the myriad of roles that keep the cannabis industry ticking.

Cannabis Jobs Salary Report

Vangst, a leading cannabis recruiting and placement firm in Colorado, recently released its annual jobs and salary report. Founder and CEO Karson Humiston notes the incredible swing instability, as she wrote, “We’ve gone from a stigmatized industry to one deemed essential; we enjoyed a boom at the height of the pandemic and are now experiencing whiplash as prices plummet, and cannabis companies of all stripes reexamine their bottom lines.”

The report notes that consolidation and big MSOs may play a more significant role in economies of scale. Specifically stating,

“Large, well-funded multistate operators (MSOs) are moving into newly legal states and snapping up independent shops and small local chains in more established markets. With economies of scale, these companies naturally have an advantage over mom-and-pop shops: Deeper pockets make an upscale consumer experience at a budget price possible and ramp up competition within the overall market.”

Nationwide, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, the Dakotas, and Oklahoma are working toward adult-use legislation, and East Coast cannabis is expected to boom in states like New York, New Jersey, and Florida. But this undoubtedly means a decline in sales for many early adopting states, such as California, Colorado, and Washington, as consumers no longer need to head West to partake.

Yet, looking at the various job boards shows that the industry needs workers. Sites such as Indeed, GlassDoor, and others all showed more than 1,500 job listings added in the past seven days. Vangst, on the other hand, offers a more hands-on approach to hiring by working directly with cannabis companies to recruit highly qualified staff and motivated workers.

Cannabis Jobs Salary Statistics

Vangst used internal data from their efforts in recruiting, as well as survey results from 2,500 participants. The business of cannabis looks much like other industries with traditional roles in various departments. The Salary Guide looks at a variety of roles in twelve categories, including:

  • Cultivation
  • Extraction
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail
  • Delivery
  • Compliance
  • Sales
  • Operations
  • Human Resources
  • Finance
  • Technology
  • Marketing

What the Data Says

The most considerable Increase in salary year-over-year went to brand managers and edible specials, with a 56.9% and a 42.1% increase, respectively. Meanwhile, Cultivation Directors and VPs of Operations were the biggest losers, with respective declines at 122.7% and 52.8%.

Interestingly, the Vangst report also compared cannabis industry roles with similar traditional roles outside of cannabis. For example, the report states that Budtenders make about 45 percent more than traditional bartenders, but VPs of Manufacturing and Controller roles pay much less than non-cannabis industry roles.

The report also touches on benefits, job satisfaction, and diversity statistics. 82% of surveyed companies offer health insurance benefits, similar to other traditional industries.

But the industry still needs to work on social justice and diversity. Although Vangst statistics show that it may be improving, albeit - slowly. In 2022, more Asians joined the cannabis industry with an 85% increase, LatinX populations increased by 47%, and participation with Indigenous People increased by 35%.

Yet, most workers are still overwhelmingly white/Caucasian, with a lead of 9.8%.

Top 5 Reasons for Working in the Cannabis Sector

Looking for a reason to work in cannabis? While many may snicker about the fringe benefits of working with weed, getting involved in the cannabis industry remains appealing for a variety of reasons, including:

  • High Growth Potential: Cannabis is growing at an unprecedented rate and is projected to be worth billions of dollars in the coming years. This makes it an attractive industry for those looking to invest in a potentially lucrative opportunity.
  • Variety of Opportunities: The cannabis industry has the same staffing needs as any other industry. From cultivation and production to retail, marketing, and accounting, there are many roles that individuals can pursue, including everything from C-level roles to gig workers needed for harvesting and production roles.
  • Positive Impact: Working in the cannabis industry can be exceptionally rewarding in more ways than one. Not only can it provide a good living for the individual, but it often has a positive impact on society by creating jobs, spurring economic growth, and even reducing crime.
  • Atmosphere: Without question, working in the cannabis industry has a different flair than other industries. As the industry evolves from its legacy roots, it brings a decidedly different culture from most traditional industries.
  • Interesting Work: With the ever-changing industry landscape, there is always something new to learn and explore. As it grows, being involved with a fledging industry provides unparalleled educational opportunities for early adopters.

Risks of Working Cannabis

Unfortunately, being on the fringe of legality, working in the industry does not come without a few risks. When considering a career change, it pays to understand the problems that may come with it.

  • Regulatory Risk: The cannabis industry is subject to changing regulations, which can create uncertainty for businesses and their employees. Cannabis companies must stay abreast of current regulations to ensure compliance and avoid potential fines or other penalties. Even individual employees may face fines and criminal charges for skirting compliance requirements.
  • Reputational Risk: The burgeoning cannabis industry is still relatively new and largely unregulated, which can create reputational risks for those working there. Individuals may face backlash from friends and family for their career choice. Worse, many people report that looking for work after working in the cannabis industry can be brutal, as stigmas and misinformation still plague much of the business world.
  • Financial Risk: There are significant financial risks associated with the legal cannabis industry. Companies must be aware of the legal, financial, and operational risks associated with their business and be prepared to face any potential financial losses. Many cannabis industry employees report being denied loans and having their bank accounts shut down. Without the SAFE Banking Act, cannabis remains restricted and off-limits to federally-backed financial institutions.

With the legalization of cannabis coming to many states, the industry has the potential to create thousands of jobs and stimulate economic growth. As the industry expands, businesses are expected to grow, leading to increased employee demand and subsequent salary growth. Combining the benefits of increased job growth, higher salaries, and the coinciding economic stimulus, the legal cannabis industry has the potential to be a significant driver of economic growth in the coming years.


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