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What Four Months in the Cannabis Industry has Taught Me

Hi, I'm Ali. In May 2019 I became the newest member of the FlowerHire team. My transition from teaching to the cannabis industry has been eye-opening. Here's what I've learned so far:
Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

Photo by Panos Sakalakis on Unsplash

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The cannabis industry reminds me a lot of Lindsay Lohan circa 2006; everyone is talking about it, from the outside it looks like a wild sexy party, it doesn’t sleep or slow down, money is confusing, there is a lot of talent mixed in with some seriously bad decisions, a wide cloud of misconceptions swirls around, and we all can’t wait to see what it does next. Unlike poor Lindsay, cannabis actually has a future beyond a recently failed reality show.

 

 

I have learned more during my transition into the cannabis industry than I did as a lifelong cannabis enthusiast. It has been humbling  to find that after all these years, I really didn’t actually know a ton about the plant, and I certainly didn’t know shit about cannabis business. But, aside from a handful of experts, I am not alone. Here are my main takeaways so far:

1. Banking is weird and this isn’t a get rich quick industry, so calm down.

People liken cannabis to the tech boom or the gold rush and, while those are lovely analogies, the reality is a different scene. For those of us in California, it can be easy to forget that this is a federally illegal industry. Banking and taxes in cannabis can be a bit tricky, and while things are certainly improving, don’t expect a 401K just yet. If you’re looking to transition from the outside world in, do not expect that you are going to be getting a pay increase. A lateral move is a strong move. Be in it for the long term play. In five years, you could be a sought after expert while other people are clamoring to get a foot in the door. 

 

2. No Cannabis experience needed, only TALENT.

One of the alluring things about the cannabis industry is its “newness” and the opportunity to build something, which means your outside skills are valued. Except for a few niche positions, you don’t need “cannabis experience,” simply to bring on the talent. You may not be an expert in cannabis, but your expertise in marketing/production/operations/etc. is transferable. Bonus points are given for any experience you have working for a start-up, a high growth company, or a name brand company. Cannabis businesses want people who can handle the grind, the long hours, & the constant fluctuations, and still consistently bring results. 

 

3. In the words of Sgt. Bilko, “We have rules, rules and regulations!”

These rules are keeping many brands (and the industry as a whole) from anticipated success. Cannabis is highly regulated and you need a license for absolutely everything. There is no all-encompassing “cannabis business license.” Separate licenses are designated for cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, delivery, retail, etc. Testing is required and packaging has an abundance of fluctuating rules. This all equals a ton of additional costs that add on to the already expensive undertaking of starting a new business and keeping it afloat. All of these extra costs are absolutely one of the reasons salaries are on the lower side. 

 

4. Large corporations are setting up shop, literally.

Somehow, word got out that the people love the weed. Obviously, this industry is headed towards money even if things are bogged down currently, but with all the additional costs and regs it is getting harder and harder for small businesses to survive. Likewise, businesses with “big brand” dreams are moving in. Large enterprises have big backers and massive extraction facilities that are pumping out swimming pools of product. Expect to start seeing more and more of the same brands as the initial dust settles and the survivors stake their shelf space claims. This is what you are up against if you are in the business. 

 

5. Having a big fat grow in 2004 doesn’t necessarily qualify you for, well, anything.

Unfortunately, the highly regulated and capital oriented cannabis industry isn’t hiring a ton of “OG Growers.” While knowledge of the plant and how it is grown is  valuable, it isn’t difficult to learn for agriculturalists coming in from other sectors. For business owners, it is safer to hire someone out of agriculture who knows the ins and outs of working in the public sector, someone who won’t throw a fit when they are told what to do. The attitude of not working for “the man” doesn’t go over so well these days because “the man” is here. 

 

6. You don’t have to “towel the door” and sneak around about it

This isn’t the black market, people working cannabis are loud and proud of what they have built! The cannabis industry is social; If you have decided that cannabis really is where you want to be, be proactive about it! There are loads of cannabis industry events in hubs like LA and SF. Don’t be shy! Be prepared to explain why you are a good fit for the industry because, more often than not, businesses want to hire people who are excited about this opportunity and this moment. Do your research and get to know the industry. Having cannabis relationships, knowledge, or a solid story can set you apart from other candidates. (Tip: If you want to break in on the sales side, you’re going to need a network of contacts in the dispensary world. Go meet people.)

This list is only a tidbit of the vast implication of the cannabis industry. If you want more information, FlowerHire has created an infographic for you to review the industry. You can find that using the link below.

 

Ok gotta go – bye!