Brandon WeberDecember 13, 2019
Now that Michigan’s cannabis stores are open and the state’s adult-use era is underway, thousands of state residents are asking: How can I get a job?
There are plenty out there. The state’s medical marijuana industry was already one of the nation’s most robust. With a population of nearly 10 million residents, Michigan now stands as the second-largest state with an operating adult-use cannabis industry. (California is the largest, with 39 milion people.)
One place to start: Talk to Matt Hoffman, a Grand Rapids entrepreneur who opened one of the state’s first caregiver dispensaries, and now runs Handgrown.jobs. “We want to be kind of a Match.com for the cannabis industry,” Hoffman told Leafly recently. “We match potential cannabis workers and professionals with companies who need them.”
First job fair draws a crowd
When Handgrown Jobs held the company’s first job fair a few months ago in Grand Rapids, more than 750 people showed up within the first two hours.
“The skills people learn at other jobs, such as ordering stock, scheduling employees, interfacing with customers, and so much more, can readily translate to the cannabis industry,” Hoffman said, “but you will have to first polish that resume!”
Leafly spoke to a few locals who hit the job fair to see what brought them, and what they went away with. (We’ve chosen to use first names only. While stigma around cannabis continues to decline, it still exists, and can have repercussions for those who are merely exercising a curiosity about the industry. Job seekers may also not want to alert their current employer that they’re out there looking.)
Knocking on opportunity’s door
Tyler came to the Grand Rapids job fair, walked away with a greatly enhanced resume, and got a job offer within about 3 weeks. He made use of his knowledge as an equipment distributor for Chrysler, Ford, and GM to become store manager at Exit 9 Provisionary in Nunica, MI. The difference, he says, between working in cannabis versus working in automotive, is the drive and passion of folks he works with. He cherishes immersing himself in doing what he loves.
Adam, formerly a professional landscaper and horticultural hobbyist, as well as a longtime home grower, had applied for cannabis jobs via other online platforms and got nowhere. But as soon as he signed up as a job seeker onto Handgrown.Jobs, he was called for an interview. Once he got that lined up, he was able to talk his way into a job based on his expertise.
Why work in cannabis? “I love it,” Adam said. “It’s a happy job with happy people.” As a professional budtender, he gets to talk with people about cannabis every day. He likes that now “I have a legal weed job, where they take out taxes and the company pays me via direct deposit.” His goal is to eventually open his own grow operation.
Jessica drove nearly three hours to attend the Grand Rapids resume workshop. “I learned a lot more attending this workshop than spending hundreds of dollars on having someone write one version of my resume just once.”
Job ‘matchmaker’ knows the industry
Handgrown Jobs founder Matt Hoffman is no newcomer to the cannabis industry himself—or to its challenges.
Over the past decade he’s had his medical dispensary shut down, had a full warehouse confiscated by overzealous police, and served a few months in county jail. Running a cannabis business in the days before full legalization, he recalled, was like operating an independent company while “a specialized militarized police force is hunting you.”
Why did he move from retail to human resources? Hoffman puts it this way: He woke up one day soon after his release from jail and thought, “I want to be in this business, but I can’t do this anymore. I’ve got this experience, what do I do with it? And more importantly, what can I do that can’t get taken away?”
His mother, who has a master’s degree in education and worked in human resources for over 26 years, had an idea: Start up a company that connects people who want to work in cannabis with cannabis employers.
And clearly Hoffman knows something about marketing. In his first website videos, he established a persona as the cannabis industry’s first goofy local TV pitchman. Check it out:
5 Distinct Categories of Jobs
The five categories for jobs in the industry traditionally have been: cannabis growing, processing, transportation, retail, and lab testing. Those categories are now expanding to include others who work at least part-time in the industry, including healthcare providers, human resources experts, accountants, marketing specialists, real estate agents, trade show crews, and more.
There are a multitude of jobs and careers within those categories, some with overlapping skills, and some requiring basic education and understanding of the various cannabis products being made and sold. Some of these positions require a degree, or at least an equivalent amount of on-the-job experience in a related field.
For example, the salesperson who travels to multiple dispensaries across the state with a new vape concept is employing not just basic sales, but higher-end skills as well, including relationship development, sales forecasting and targeting, managing customer and corporate expectations and results, and so on.
So … Where Do I Begin?
- Rewrite your resume to focus on the skill sets that cannabis employers Did you work the cash register at a retail store? That translates to: “Interacted with the public in a service capacity, with customer retention and repeat business a high priority.” Did you manage inventory at a warehouse? That becomes: “Responsible for all aspects of supply chain administration to keep the operation running, and maintaining product flow, especially during peak order times.” Don’t lie—just capture exactly the skills exhibited in your previous job.
- Level up your education. There’s little standardization in the young cannabis industry, but there some colleges offer courses in the specialties you’d like to work in, from terpene proficiency to higher-level horticulture.
- Get your record expunged. Most legal states have a process to expunge cannabis-related convictions, and some states won’t let you work in the industry if you have them. There are some bills making their way through the Michigan legislature right now that would automatically expunge non-assaultive crimes if the individual remains clean for 10 years. In the meantime, you’ll have to get this taken care of to work in the industry. Of course, the absurdity of preventing those convicted of cannabis possession from working in the industry is not lost on those paying attention.
- Show up at cannabis events. Meet people in the industry. Express an interest. Ask questions. Show yourself to be a competent, socially capable professional. It’s called networking, and it really works.
- Dive into Leafly’s Cannabis Jobs Count series about jobs in the legal industry. Lot of great stuff there: background data, info on hot markets, and tips from hiring pros.