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The First Steps Of Breaking Into The Marijuana Industry Part 1

 November 30th, 2108 photo/istock/monkeybusinessimages 

By Roger Malespin

With the tide of legalization sweeping the country, the marijuana industry is one of the hottest prospects for young adults, career-changing business people, and entrepreneurs. Passion is great for any career, but before one can apply that passion they need to understand the landscape they’re getting into and have a plan. Today, we’re going to look at some of the first steps of breaking into the marijuana industry. Spoiler alert - you will be doing a lot of financial planning and research before filling out applications or permits.

 The first step is the most obvious one: Does the state you live in have a marijuana program? If it does, you need to understand what type of program it has. Legality varies from state to state. Some have a strict medical only products like CBD and its derivatives, while some have full recreational use. The state law will determine what careers you can pursue and what licenses you need to apply for. Remember, some states have a cap on how many licenses they grant per year, so you’ll also need to research the current and projected numbers for that year. Lastly, Some states only grant licenses to state residents, so be mindful if moving is viable for you.

So you know about your state’s laws or will move to a legal state, what’s next? Without a doubt the next step is planning what type of career you’re looking for. People are often surprised when they learn about just how diverse the job market is within the industry, but they can be broken down into two different types: Plant-touching and non plant-touching.

Plant touching includes any job that is hands-on with the product - cultivating, processing, refining, manufacturing, dispensing, and transporting. Cannabis is a plant, so cultivation and plant-touching jobs are the heart of the industry. Like any agricultural product, cannabis is beholden to various state laws regarding everything from growing spaces to proper maintenance. There are a host of licenses for these plant-touching jobs and a mountain paperwork, so make sure you have the legal and financial knowledge or someone who does with you before committing.

Non plant-touching jobs are jobs that provide any service to the industry without being hanon with the product. These include marketing, accounting, graphic design, insurance, security, legal representation, IT, personal shoppers, budtenders and many more. Basically any type of job you can think of for any other legitimate business can likely be applied to the non plant-touching cannabis careers. These jobs do not have license requirements from the state and are generally more accessible to most people than plant-touching jobs. The most you can expect in terms of state guidelines would be a required course on proper handling of the product or something to that effect.

In these beginning steps, the most important thing is reading and understanding the licensing and distribution laws in your state. You will have to immerse yourself in this as if you were writing a Master’s thesis. Additionally, you should speak with and network with as many people with industry experience as possible so you have a realistic picture of the landscape that isn’t limited to your own hopes and expectations. There are no guarantees - starting a business or changing careers is complicated, confusing, and risky, but with the right preparation it can be done.

Next, we will delve deeper into the types of jobs, the skills you need to get them, and their projected viability over the short term to see if they are the right fit for you.