Here’s What Working in the Marijuana Industry Is Really Like

STYLECASTER/Getty Images

STYLECASTER/Getty Images

Most of us have fantasized about working in a job that’s a world apart from the one we actually get paid to do. The ones I play out in my imagination vary from the relatively mundane (yoga instructor, social worker, teacher) to the rarer and more exciting (investigative reporter, pilot, anthropologist). But it wasn’t until recently that jobs in the cannabis industry begin to sound intriguing—not to mention feasible.

As legalization spreads across the country, business is hot on the heels of legislative changes, with companies and jobs springing up to fill the hole in the market. In fact, legal marijuana is now the fastest-growing industry in the U.S., with hundreds of thousands of new jobs created each year to meet the demands of the $2.7 billion market. On top of that, jobs in cannabis tend to pay between $50,000 and $90,000—not bad in a country where the average salary barely tops $50,000. Pretty appealing, right? You’re not the only one to think so.

Below, we picked the brains of five young women who’ve found success in the cannabis business. Find out how they got into it, what their average day is like, and their tips for what it takes to cut it in their industry.

@omedibles

@omedibles

Maya Elisabeth, 34, Northern California
CEO of Whoopi & Maya and Om Edibles

STYLECASTER: What does your company do?
Maya Elisabeth: We provide edibles for California cannabis patients.

How’d you get into the business?
A very deep love for cannabis brought me to this industry. I have always been an appreciator of the cannabis plant, and I have always enjoyed how it makes me feel. After graduating college, I worked in a dispensary and had the opportunity of serving thousands of patients and learning about cannabis medicine. It turned into a deep love affair and has evolved into creating my own medicine for others.

What’s your company culture like?
Our company is the tightest loose ship you’ll ever be on! We have lots of freedom and are very relaxed, but all of that is under the premise that there are not errors, people are on time, and ultimately anything that sacrifices the quality of our production is out the window, no questions asked. We believe in putting compassion into action and reflecting the same abundance and generosity to patients that the cannabis plant gives to us. The secret to our success is really no secret at all: You get in what you put out. Quality ingredients are the foundation of our success.

Where do you see your career headed?
I see myself doing exactly what I’m doing now, but on a larger scale, more streamlined, with more new products and employees.

Do you ever feel judged for what you do?
I used to, before the release of Whoopi & Maya [the medical marijuana line launched with Whoopi Goldberg]. It seems to me that people take what I’m doing a lot more seriously now. As more and more research comes out, little by little, we correct people’s impressions about cannabis. It’s a fulfilling feeling to help people open their minds and understand the medicinal value of this plant.

Would you recommend the marijuana industry to other professional women?
As long as they’re interested in getting into it for the right reasons. The people I encourage most are those who have a desire to help others and want to produce high-quality products. I also encourage people to cultivate a relationship with the plant. This doesn’t mean being high all the time; it might mean using topicals or CBD—whatever the case, I encourage some type of interaction. It’s such an effective experience to feel the benefits of cannabis and then that same respect and gratitude is automatically transferred to whatever you’re making. I also encourage people to do as much research as they can. There are so many pieces of information floating around out there, and it’s fascinating the things you can find out—it’s really indicative of actually how little we know.

@whoopiandmaya

@whoopiandmaya

MORE: How 6 Smart Women Became CEOs Before They Turned 30

Shoshanna Silverberg, 34, Las Vegas
executive assistant to Leslie Bocskor, president at Electrum Partners

What does your company do?
We offer advisory services to entrepreneurs in the legal cannabis space. From advising on foundational business development and strategic positioning to assisting in the valuation of businesses across a handful of vertical markets, we cultivate an equity-based network that is creating opportunity for an amazing cross-section of shareholders.

What’s your everyday job like?
My job is pretty sweet because I get to learn from some of the brightest and most engaged folks in the industry. Whether it’s understanding how Hawaii’s dispensary system is being developed or strategizing with elected officials about how to achieve favorable results in elections—Electrum is at the forefront. So, my job is really about connecting the dots for our clients. How can we continue to help them move forward in a way that helps the industry move forward as a whole?

How’d you get into this industry?
My background is in political advocacy, almost completely from a civil-liberties and human-rights perspective. I have a master’s in holistic thinking, and the question I was really interested in was, what would it mean for our public policies to be holistic? When I finished law school in the spring of 2015, I knew I needed to find a way to keep up with my student debt, and also find a job where I got to advocate for policies I believe in. A lightbulb went on: cannabis! I’d met Electrum’s cofounder Gordon Katz years before at Burning Man, so I reached out. They said, we don’t have a lobbying position for you, but if you want to throw down and help our company move forward, Leslie needs an assistant—and you have to move to Vegas. I never imagined that’s where I would end up, but so far it’s worked out perfectly.

What’s the corporate culture like?
We’re an eclectic bunch. When I started, we worked out of Leslie’s home, but now we have an office in downtown Vegas with plans to expand. We travel a lot. We laugh a lot. We move really, really fast and everyone has an opinion about everything. We try to let everyone’s voice be heard. We collaborate. We love problems because due to the diversity of everyone’s background and experience, we have a lot of knowledge and perspective to draw from. We’re also in the cannabis industry, so while there is a very serious side to what we’re doing, there’s a fun side as well, for sure.

How does marijuana differ from other industries?
For me, the issue itself—legalization of cannabis—is not actually new, because I’ve been active around it for years. For me, it’s about honoring people’s freedom of choice. What’s different for me now is that I’m advocating for a social justice issue through the lens of what makes a sustainable marketplace, and how we can regulate this freedom of choice in ways that are responsible for the business community as well as society overall.

What’s your own weed use like?
I’ve been a cannabis consumer since my teenage years. For me, it’s about the furthest thing from a de-motivator. It relaxes me, slows me down so I can take my time with tasks and maintain a flow that is both creative and analytical. It’s sort of a mood stabilizer. And now we’re finding out that humans have an endocannabinoid system in our bodies—literally receptors inside of us whose job it is to receive cannabinoids and create what the scientists are calling an “entourage effect” of positive biological effects. Amazing, right?

Where do you see your career headed?
Our work now is creating the blueprint for a sustainable marketplace, and that includes environmental sustainability. We’ll have figured out how to overcome the political inertia that’s prevented progress from happening, and we’ll have learned lessons we can begin to apply to the development of responsible marketplaces for other plants—hemp, for starters. So in 10 years, don’t be surprised if you find me lobbying for the regulation of hemp. I’m also interested in working internationally, so perhaps working on drug reform in other countries is a possibility as well.

Do you ever feel judged for your job?
No one’s come right out and said anything, but I’m sure there’s an elephant in the room sometimes. I’m typically reluctant to tell people what industry I’m in, but so often when I mention it, people are more than supportive. They’re like, ‘Yeah, seriously, it’s awesome you’re doing that.’ It’s a significant issue for many, many Americans.

Would you recommend the marijuana industry to other professional women?
Oh, absolutely. There is such a vigor to this industry and simultaneously the recognition that it would suck for women to be barred from it. The paradigm is so much more progressive in that way than in any other industry I know of, for men and women. There’s a real push for us to support one another. The cannabis industry is really about lifting each other up.

@whoopiandmaya

@whoopiandmaya

MORE: Your Ultimate Guide to Cooking with Weed

Hyler Fortier, 24, Denver
cofounder and the community outreach manager at MassRoots, a social networking platform for cannabis enthusiasts

What does your company do?
MassRoots provides a digital platform for cannabis enthusiasts to connect. The current functionality of the app is similar to Facebook or Instagram; however, we will continually add features that are specific to cannabis consumers, like our dispensary map, launching soon.

How did you get into the cannabis industry, and what drew you to this job?
[My cofounders] and I are cannabis consumers. We wanted to solve a problem that people like us faced—that the plant was so stigmatized, no one felt comfortable sharing their experiences with it. We wanted to provide a platform for people to share an important aspect of their lives without risking judgment or jeopardizing employment. Our long-term mission has always been to help legalize, legitimize, and normalize marijuana. We are proud of what we’ve accomplished thus far, but there is always more work to be done!

What is your company culture like?
Our company culture is spectacular. It’s built on a foundation of trust and mutual respect. The office is primarily an open workspace so there is a lot of collaboration between departments. Just last week, I ran into our CEO grabbing a taco with a salesperson, social media manager, intern, android developer, and our director of talent & culture. Everyone on the team is driven by a common and powerful mission.

How does marijuana differ from other industries?
This industry is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced or even heard about. For a young person like me, there is no better industry to be in if you want to learn quickly and move up within your organization. All of this is new, everyone’s figuring it out, nothing’s set in stone, and so everyone has an equal opportunity to crush it.

I have a ton of respect for my friends who landed corporate jobs in DC after college, but many of them have expressed their frustration that they have to wait years to move up even slightly within their companies. The corporate structure works for those companies, and has for decades, but it holds back young, ambitious individuals. On the contrary, the cannabis industry is hungry for innovation. We don’t fear change, we need change.

Where do you see your career headed?
Unfortunately, I don’t have a decent answer to this question. I know what I love to do right now, and I learn about new things that I love every single day. I see all of these little lessons, projects, and passions coming together and see myself in a role that encompasses it all.

Do you ever feel judged for your job?
Honestly, no. I have found a lot more curiosity than I have judgment. Many of my friends who were skeptical or opposed to the endeavor have become some of our strongest supporters. It’s really exciting to see people turn a new leaf in my circle and beyond.

Would you recommend the marijuana industry to other professional women?
The cannabis industry is not for the faint of heart. People who crave a corporate structure and constant management will not enjoy this work. The industry is moving and shaping at an unprecedented rate. Everyone has to be agile and ready to make changes quickly. Those who are not motivated by the cause of legalization may have a hard time staying engaged.

That being said, I would absolutely recommend this industry to anyone who is ambitious, driven, hard-working, and passionate. There is no better time than now to get involved in this industry—the possibilities are endless, both personally and professionally.

@omedibles

@omedibles

MORE: Why It’s Better to Have Sex High Than Drunk

Alicia Darrow, 34, Lafayette, CA
chief of retail operations, Blum Las Vegas Terra Tech Corp.

What does your job involve?
Mainly I operate dispensaries and cultivations, although I also sit on a couple of cannabis advisory boards, have my own edible line, and am part owner in a concentrate flowers line.

How’d you get into the business?
I fell into the cannabis industry by chance and never looked back. I stay because I believe in it and see future medical cannabis reform. Our company culture relies on consistency, quality, and the long-term relationships we’ve built over 15 years in the industry.

Where do you see your career headed?
In all honesty, it’s hard to say. Our industry is expanding so quickly these days, there are many different ways things can go. How my future plays out depends completely on how medical cannabis reform goes, which may range vastly.

Do you ever feel judged for being in this industry?
15 years ago, I would have said yes. Everyone in my circle of friends and family thought I was insane for being part of this industry and would say I was wasting my talent and possibly risking my freedom. However, nowadays all the naysayers from my past want to know how they can break into this industry. They want a job, want to invest in our stock, and want to know how to be a patient or become a vendor.

Would you recommend the marijuana industry to other professional women?
Absolutely. I hope we become the first women-dominated billion-dollar industry in American history.

@thebrainbehindthebud

@thebrainbehindthebud

Chelsea Ann Lucich, 29, Hopland, CA
creative director, director, buyer, general manager, blue fairy, and compassion allocator at Emerald Pharms Resource Center

What does your job entail?
I helped create Emerald Pharms from start to finish, from the design and décor of the dispensary to determining how things will be displayed in the store. I carefully crafted the menu to offer only top quality lab-tested organic medicine. I curated an educated staff so that the medicine will be represented and talked about in the highest informative regard.

What does your company do?
Emerald Pharms Resource Center creates a safe and inviting environment where all will feel welcomed and at peace. Our focus is on cannabis education and providing top quality CBD/THC full plant medicine. We help guide patients to the right medicine by sharing our findings with them, but more importantly, listening to their individual experience with cannabis.

How’d you get into the industry?
I became involved with cannabis recreationally at a young age. I knew right away that the plant was sacred and special because it helped me deprogram and bring me back to my roots. It wasn’t until I got my start in the industry that I realized what a valuable medicine the plant truly is. I started volunteering at a collective in Sacramento, giving away free body work to cannabis patients. This progressed to a Berkeley, California, dispensary. From there I was offered a bud-tending job. I became an edible buyer and shift lead, eventually becoming manager of one of the collective’s new stores.

I truly felt I had found my calling helping heal people. I met so many people along the way for whom cannabis truly saved their lives and helped them become better beings—myself included. I was in a horrible accident that left me in a wheelchair and on lots of pharmaceuticals. Through CBD and other healthy lifestyle changes, I was able to get off painkillers and live a better life.

What’s your company culture like?
Our entire staff is welcoming and compassionate. Emerald Pharms requires all staff to be trained by Project CBD and attend weekly educational classes for cannabinoid therapeutics. We are all artists of some sort, and we lead healthy lives and help inspire others.

How does marijuana differ from other industries?
I have worked a few other dispensaries and this one by far is the most unique. We have an open-door policy that allows patients to be inside the building to ask questions and learn about the ways you can ingest cannabis. One of the things I enjoy the most is curating our edible selection; most dispensaries I’ve experienced only care about cost per mg, whereas Emerald Pharms stands behind the phrase food is medicine and provides only health-conscious edibles.

How do you use weed?
I mostly use CBD 18:1 sublingual during my work day. It helps me focus, de-stress and be present.

Where do you see your career headed?
I hope to continue designing dispensaries and helping inspire the compassionate culture. I would love to give away lots of CBD medicine to those who need it.

Do you ever feel judged for your work?
I used to have this problem years ago, but these days, people are excited when they find out what I do, and usually have a lot of questions they’re itching ask.

Would you recommend the marijuana industry to other professional women?
I would recommend it to any one who truly cares about healing the nation and helping others. Of course, more women should represent this powerful female plant. There’s lots of room for growth and leadership.

MORE: 7 Women on What Feminism Means Now

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