New Yorker interested in legal marijuana jobs
December 29, 2013 6:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm a New Yorker who is completely willing to move to a new area for work and a change of pace. With Colorado legalizing marijuana starting January 1st, I find myself interested in working in what will certainly become a lucrative industry. Without specific experience, is that possible?

Here's a snapshot of my work experience: retail/sales, restaurant management, social media, writing, etc. I've also worked at a few start ups.

If I'm interested in finding work -- "budtender", assistant, trimmer, whatever really -- in that new industry, how should I go about it? Beyond how you'd find any job... Some searching makes it sound like volunteering at marijuana advocacy groups would be a good start.

Do you think I'd only be able to find something after moving?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Such jobs are typically listed on craigslist (examples). My sense is that bar isn't that high and the jobs aren't that well paid. I don't think you'll have a problem finding something.
posted by Wordwoman at 7:03 PM on December 29, 2013

(But yes, you'll likely have to be here. I can't imagine why anyone would want to deal with out-of-state candidates for the kind of jobs you're interested in.)
posted by Wordwoman at 7:08 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I hate to be this person but, as ridiculous and idiotic as we may all find it, marijuana is still illegal according to the federal government. So, assuming you plan to pay taxes, you'll be paying taxes to the IRS for money earned doing something they consider to be a crime. I'm not sure how people working in medical/legal marijuana deal with this, but if it was me it would be a major major major major concern.

I don't think marijuana will ever be a "lucrative industry" (except for cartels) while it's stuck in this semi-legal state. Sure, the feds aren't conducting raids or seizing property today, but they can at any time they feel like it. Not to mention the constant harassment and attempt to outlaw at local levels, as has happened with medical pot in CA.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:09 PM on December 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

The 1040 has a line for illegal income, actually:

Illegal activities. Income from illegal activities, such as money from dealing illegal drugs, must be included in your income on Form 1040, line 21, or on Schedule C or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040) if from your self-employment activity.

The IRS is mainly concerned that you actually pay them, though other branches may have more of an interest in your illegal activities.

(I am not an attorney, I am just a bunch of internet).
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:17 PM on December 29, 2013 [14 favorites]

Don't forget us Washingtonians legalized it, too! The ACLU of WA posted a notice on their Facebook page that the state is receiving license requests now. Wikipedia says they should start issuing licenses next month, so businesses should know soon if they'll need to start hiring and ramp up for that.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 7:47 PM on December 29, 2013

Under absolutely no circumstances conceal your income from the IRS.

I suggest also that it's a much better strategy to get a job in an industry that caters to the people who are going to be involved in this particular economic activity, than it is to be directly involved in stuff which, yes, is still against federal law. Sell plastic bags, distribute glassware to bars, etc. The secure jobs in the gold rush period were in laundry services and boarding houses (and brothels,) not in panning for gold.
posted by SMPA at 7:49 PM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

The gold rush is an apt comparison. Levi Strauss made more money selling jeans to good miners than did most good miners. Focus on an ancillary service provider that will be a beneficiary of this industry.
posted by dfriedman at 7:59 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've got a bunch of friends that work for weedmaps. It's like yelp for dispensaries. I know they're currently hiring for the software side if you have programing experience. I don't know if they're still hiring account managers or sales people but I'll ask.
posted by Arbac at 8:10 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

The secure jobs in the gold rush period were in laundry services and boarding houses (and brothels,) not in panning for gold.


I worked for a dispensary for a few months doing IT stuff for them, and had dreams of turning it into an actual primary job where i just bounced around between local shops doing that as a contractor. It seemed really awesome at the time, until i realized that only two types of people really run these places.

A. Crazy(and yes, i realize that's a loaded term), like Michael Scott kind of weird old stoner hippies in their mid 50s who are all activist-y and completely detached from reality when it comes to running a business, interacting with/managing employees, or really just social interaction in general and like to blame all their problems on other people.

B. Shady as fuck bro'd out doucher types who are approaching it like they're hard core mid-level gangsters... except that they're just white or asian kids from suburbia who went to a good state school and were probably in a frat at the time. It's unclear if the money came from or is backed by some kind of actual criminal enterprise, or if it came from a rich parents/uncle/etc "angel investor". These places always seem REALLY shady, and regularly get shut down for tax evasion or being tied in to other half-assed but non white collar crime.

Yea, i realize that was from the "medical" side, but most of these places were just catering nearly entirely to college students and middle aged people who wanted to "legally" get weed without having to deal with crappy dealers, and charged MASSIVE markups.

Don't even get me started on the growers/suppliers, they're even crazier. Although one of them made some damn good absinth i wish i could get more of

Now if that's from the semi-legal "medical" industry, why would i think it applies to the new fully legal industries in Washington and colorado? Because nearly everyone who had the money and wherewithall to apply for one of the licenses for general retail ganja owned or ran one of those places.

It's all the same people, just moving in to larger storefronts or opening a second store for "retail" in the allotted areas.

And while i think the real money here is in doing stuff like what i did, like IT support/installation/etc, i would not deal with any of these fucking people again unless i was being paid cash up front before i even put on my pants.

Type A ghosts on you and fails to pay because they're ditzy and useless, and type B does it because they're "hustling" and think they can get away with it. If i was selling some ancillary retail product in their stores or providing some other type of service(like starting a highly secure, bonded/insured after hours contract janitorial company like banks use for example) i would be extremely afraid of having huge problems consistently getting money out of these people.

TONS of money flows through these places, but getting it out of anywhere other than the owner and their two buddies who they brought in as "managers" pockets is close to impossible.

Maybe i'm just bitter, but i really think this is relevant. I wouldn't work for or with any company that wasn't started by outside legitimate investors who are just getting in to the field now, and intending to run a serious business. Existing places "going legit" are incredibly suspicious to me because of this crap. Just near my house, several of them have been kicked out for not even paying their damn rent.

I thought the real money would be in IT, like setting up office machines and point of sale terminals and helping them pick inventory tracking software, etc. now i never want to deal with any of those people again unless it's like some silicon valley investment firm who just sees money in it.

But anyways, just my two cents...
posted by emptythought at 8:12 PM on December 29, 2013 [7 favorites]

Yeah, as others have suggested, any time there is a new gold rush it's good to be in the pick and shovel business. I think a lot of the worries about being able to report your income are probably going to be overblown; more and more companies are getting wise and running a storefront called Legal Budz or somesuch but running it through a holding company called Johnson Surplus or something of the like. Then Johnson Surplus holds the bank accounts and cuts the paychecks and the W2s.

Anyway, if the medical market is any indicator of what the over-the-counter market is going to be like, there is certainly money to be made, but in many respects its like any other industry. You can work the counter at a retail establishment without making much cash, or you can be at the top of the food chain with more risk, more responsibility, and more income if things are going good. The entry level starts through craigslist or through friends of friends, like most other industries.

And as to your final question, yes, I can't imagine many would hire you from across the country, much like you probably couldn't get a job waiting tables in Colorado from across the country.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:42 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

These jobs barely pay enough to make a living out here -- $9/hour on craigslist. A friend's daughter works in a shop nearby and I don't think she's making a cent more than $12/hour. She stays because she's passionate about legalization.

I'd look into the tourism aspect. I lived next door to a vacation rental that seemed to cater to out-of-state guests interested in the new lax rules. With your management/social media background, you might be able to build some sort of bud & breakfast enterprise. (Did I just coin that term? It's yours now, OP.)
posted by mochapickle at 8:50 PM on December 29, 2013 [8 favorites]

But to answer your question more specifically, I wouldn't bother applying until you're in state. And my friend's daughter had no prior experience, but she had a red card and was familiar with the local shops before getting hired on.
posted by mochapickle at 8:57 PM on December 29, 2013

There's a licensing scheme for marijuana business related employees in Colorado that is very backlogged at the moment. See

Not sure what there is in Washington. There are classes you can take for a couple hundred bucks which supposedly teach you about the industry here in WA.

WA state is about to start handing out grower, processor and retailer licenses, and they say they are not going to favor existing medical shops, rather they will be giving them out on the basis of the solidity of the business plan. So there might be a lot of new players that aren't ditzes or bros like a previous commenter posted.
posted by Joe Chip at 1:49 AM on December 30, 2013

Slate article on ancillary industries that seem to be taking off to support the new norml: Real estate for new residents or residents who want to grow, security, point of sale systems, mergers & acquisitions.
posted by mochapickle at 8:08 AM on January 23, 2014

Cannabis Job Fair!
posted by Joe Chip at 11:30 AM on March 15, 2014

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