Cannabis has grown. Once the domain of music videos and “stoner” films, it is now a rapidly growing commercial industry in the United States.
A total of 18 US states have now legalized the drug for adult recreational use. Over 145 million US citizens have legal access through cannabis dispensaries now able to legally operate at the state level.
Although still illegal under federal law, the United States House of Representatives recently passed two laws that would effectively decriminalize marijuana and legitimize cannabis industry funding. They are now awaiting Senate approval.
The rising tide brings waves of new jobs. There are currently over 321,000 full-time jobs available in the legal cannabis industry in the United States, more than the number of positions available for dentists or electrical engineers.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if it doubled over the next five years due to increasing legalization,” says Steven Mintz, professor emeritus at California Polytechnic University and Orfalea College of Business.
Many of these roles fit the profile of a business school graduate. Here are some of the cannabis industry jobs you could land after your business degree.
1. Financial analyst/accountant
All industries require financial expertise: from securing financing to filing taxes to managing a company’s assets.
Emerging industries often have tricky regulatory systems, and the connection between investors and companies seeking funding can be less clear than in more established industries.
The federal legal situation in the United States makes things even more complex. Without federal approval, it’s difficult for companies in the cannabis industry to open bank accounts, and they can’t publicly list on US exchanges.
“You need sophisticated finance and accounting teams to get out there and raise capital, and the tax system in the United States in particular is incredibly complex for cannabis,” says Michael Miller, a cannabis industry consultant who co -wrote a marijuana case study in 2018 with University of Cambridge Judges Business School.
This could be a perfect fit for a business school graduate with specialist financial expertise, who would rather delve into an emerging industry than take the more trodden route of consulting or banking.
2. Marketing Manager
At Green Thumb Industries, a Chicago-based cannabis producer listed on the Canadian Stock Exchange, there are currently openings in retail marketing, brand management and marketing management.
It’s one of many companies looking for ways to stand out and generate new business in a heavily restricted industry.
“One of the biggest challenges for cannabis marketing is that there are so many restrictive laws on how you can advertise,” Michael (Photo) Explain.
In the United States, laws vary from state to state. In Alaska, all cannabis products must be sold in opaque, child-resistant containers, with an eight-sentence warning outlining various health risks and immediate, short-term effects.
In Colorado, the first state to legalize medical cannabis in 1996, businesses are only required to display the universal symbol for THC, along with a short three-sentence warning.
Restrictions and variation create a need for innovative marketing expertise, especially among multi-state operators (MSOs) who must adhere to a variety of different laws.
“A lot of these guys have to engage in more creative marketing techniques in order to please customers without stepping on the toes of the state or federal government,” adds Michael.
For business school graduates with expertise in marketing, the cannabis industry offers the opportunity to test your skills and knowledge against the challenge of a very unique regulatory system.
3. Logistics/Supply Chain Manager
Mass-producing a factory to meet the demands of a $17 billion market requires in-depth knowledge of business fundamentals, including packaging, distribution, and supply networks.
The management dynamics of a cannabis organization are similar to other consumer packaged goods industries that typically employ business school graduates, such as food, beverage, and tobacco.
“There is a great need for people who understand business and who can then bring those skills to the cannabis industry,” says Paul Seaborn. (Photo), a professor at the Mcintire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia, who piloted the first-ever accredited “Business of Marijuana” course.
As suppliers grow and become MSOs, the need for skilled logistics managers who can handle a large-scale operation also increases.
“It’s a very difficult challenge to run an increasingly complicated business in the industry if you don’t have the fundamentals of the business,” adds Paul.
It is therefore a good opportunity for business graduates with expertise in logistics, or for those working in similar consumer packaged goods industries who are looking for an opportunity to join a sector with high growth potential.
4. Human Resources Manager
Ever since legalization began sweeping across US states, businesses operating in the cannabis industry have grown rapidly.
Established in 2010, the medical and wellness MSO, Curaleaf, has quickly expanded beyond its headquarters in Wakefield, Massachusetts. It now operates in 23 states, employs 4,800 people, and is one of many publicly traded cannabis suppliers in Canada.
“We still see, even without federal legalization, a steady growth in the size and sophistication of the industry,” says Paul.
The Society for Human Resource Management recommends hiring HR staff to help run an organization when it reaches 15 to 25 employees. For Curaleaf and many other MSOs, there is a strong demand for great internal HR services.
Trends suggest this need will only grow in the future, Paul thinks. “The indicators — public support across all demographics, political support, and states legalizing it — all point to the federal government engaging at some point,” he explains.
If that happened, interstate regulation would ease and companies could be listed on the US stock exchange, allowing larger-scale operations to occur and creating even more opportunities in human resources.
The US cannabis industry market is expected to reach $30 billion per year by 2025. Other countries are also taking steps to legalize the drug and establish their own national industries. Uruguay and Canada are leading the way with full decriminalization nationwide.
It is estimated that the global cannabis market could reach over $90 billion by 2026. For budding entrepreneurs, this is a huge potential market to tap into.
“There are a lot of opportunities for innovation,” says Paul. This includes, as part of plant growth and packaging, security services to maintain large-scale facilities, computer systems, payment services and countless other areas.
Any new company that offers a quality product with a use case within the industry could see huge growth. There is also the possibility of becoming a key player across the world as the industry grows.
“If you have a proven idea, you can take it and launch it into markets around the world very quickly,” adds Paul.
For business school grads looking to start their own business, there are few industries that offer a more untapped market with greater growth potential than cannabis.
We’ve come a long way since the “stoner” movies, but cannabis is now one of the most dynamic and exciting industries in the world. No matter your expertise, skills or interests, there are a range of opportunities for business school graduates available in the cannabis industry.
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