Why Work in Weed? Amid the Great Resignation, Legal Cannabis May Offer Perks Other Industries Cannot

Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.

They’re calling it the Great Resignation: a mass exodus of employees from their current jobs in search of new, brighter career opportunities. It may have taken a pandemic to put things into focus and provide time for Americans to reflect, but it’s no secret that many people have long been craving a more exciting and hands-on career path with room for growth, upward mobility and a better work-life balance.

For many, the burgeoning licensed cannabis industry has proved to be the perfect opportunity to start a new chapter in their careers. With many prospective employees knocking at the door and bringing with them a diverse array of expertise that can translate across industries, cannabis companies should welcome them with open arms.

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Why are workers turning to the legal cannabis industry?

First of all, cannabis on the surface seems fun and that draws people in. This enthusiasm can make it easy to find the drive to get involved and play a bigger role as the industry unfolds with U.S. cannabis sales in 2022 projected to reach $72 billion by 2030, according to a March 2022 report by New Frontier Data.

As far as the Great Resignation is concerned, many people are tired of sitting at a computer all day. While their jobs may be “stable,” many are tired of doing work they don’t feel passionate about. The shakeup provided by the pandemic has given people the time and space to nail down the reasons why they are unhappy in their current situation and lay out a plan to do something different.

Cannabis offers these individuals an opportunity to not only get their hands dirty in an exciting new world but to literally shape it, too. Cannabis is different from many other businesses and career opportunities you could choose — it’s all hands-on and driven by participation. While it has a corporate structure that mirrors other sectors, it is totally unique in the way that it functions.

From my perspective, the desire for change is driving the Great Resignation, and in this industry, there is a lot of change. In a developing sector, there is ample room for growth even if it means changing companies as your career blossoms. People who want to change jobs in other, more established markets may find upward mobility difficult and may find starting their own business venture downright impossible.

But in the cannabis space, there is expected to be considerable growth over the next several years, and being in the industry now almost feels like being a part of the gold rush a hundred years ago. While federal legalization remains the largest hurdle to mainstream acceptance, there is a chance that legal cannabis could in the distant future simply be treated as a staple commodity, just like coffee or grain. That means even more opportunities for career growth down the line.

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The cannabis industry needs fresh, yet experienced faces.

Just as working in cannabis has become a haven for people looking for a new start, the industry itself is in need of contributors from across sectors. Like any industry, we can’t function without people knowledgeable in things like manufacturing, sales, marketing and so many other specialties. These workers have become an invaluable source of expertise as the cannabis industry continues to evolve and define itself. Facing a slew of new challenges and circumstances, it’s important to have an idea of how other industries handle, and previously handled, various issues that the cannabis industry will face as it develops.

Our industry is also fortunate in that it is in the earlier stages of development at a time when so many people are willing to bring their expertise to a new field. I have seen this firsthand: My parents used to work for a grocery store, and while the way a grocery store works is quite different from the way a dispensary works, there are many procedures from the supply chain and day-to-day business side of things that we as dispensary owners have used as a model for our own operations. That same phenomenon is happening all across the industry as people see how valued their knowledge and contributions are.

Cannabis is in the unique position of having the opportunity to do things right from the start. This wealth of experience and knowledge from across sectors will only better our chances of getting things right the first time.

Industry participation could benefit communities.

Here in Oklahoma, where my company operates, we are struggling economically. But cannabis has bucked that trend and given our residents a whole new, scaleable field to work in. In 2020, Oklahoma’s legal cannabis sales were over $800 million, “more than doubling the state’s 2019 sales total,” according to findings from Leafly. It has also brought tax revenue to struggling areas and created prosperity. We are seeing those positive impacts within our communities, and these positive impacts have the potential to expand even more as the industry continues to grow. An influx of highly qualified workers helping it along could only enhance the process.

Additionally, the transition to a regulated market could help marginalized people. Many states have systems for social equity in the industry, paving the way for people who have been historically prosecuted for cannabis to get involved and earn a living. This allows them to create their legacy and make their mark on the industry, helping to right the wrongs done to individuals who have been harmed by our system in the past.

In the end, I believe the movement of workers to the cannabis industry is beneficial to colleagues, business owners and the communities they serve. While it may have taken a global pandemic to bring this all into focus, we can only hope this positive shift will continue long after Covid-19 is a distant memory.

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