Professional Training for Cannabis Careers

The traditional hiring process is largely hinged upon the verifiable education and employment history of a candidate. With little effort, human resource departments can access college transcripts and work references of an applicant. These tools make the practice of “qualifying” potential employees rather routine. Looking to cannabis careers, modern marijuana businesses have a resounding need for qualified employees. Yet, staffing challenges reverberate throughout the marijuana industry with cannabis employers. These problems largely occur due to a lack of professional cannabis training as opposed to whats seen in the traditional job market.cannabis careers, cannabis employers, marijuana

As the legitimate marijuana industry continues to grow and evolve, it’s constantly exposing new business pit-falls which are precariously hinged on exciting opportunities for prosperity. The job search and hiring process surrounding the many facets of the marijuana industry illustrates this notion well. Because, inferior management procedures can sink a business while still it’s in its infancy.

Marijuana Career Training Options: DU & NIC

Secondary schools such as the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis in Massachusetts as well as Denver University in Colorado have devised training programs for cannabis careers. With these programs, industry hopefuls can learn the basics of the contemporary marijuana business world. Through these forward-thinking programs, cannabis companies can access educated applicants that are presented in objectively clear fashions. To help us get a better understanding of education options for cannabis careers, we contacted Paul Seaborn, professor of DU’s “Business of Marijuana” class. We also reached out to the NIC’s dean of faculty Cara-Crab Burman, Here is what they had to say:

What are most of your students looking to do with their education in cannabis careers?

Seaborn (DU): “The students seem to fall into three categories. A few intend to enter the cannabis industry immediately upon graduation. These have already been pursuing internships and making connections in preparation. Another group are open to the idea of working directly or indirectly with cannabis employers but are also pursuing non-cannabis options. The remainder are interested in the topic for a variety of reasons but do not have any plans to work in the industry.”

Crab-Burman (NIC): “Most of our grads are looking to start cannabis jobs with cannabis employers. Many of them are planning to start at the beginning. But, we also have several grads that love the careers they have already established. They want to apply what they know to the marijuana industry.”

Does your school offer vocational training for cannabis careers? If so, what type?

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Seaborn (DU): “No. My course is not designed for those looking to develop industry-specific skills around growing, trimming, or bud-tending. Nor is it only designed for those seeking an immediate cannabis-related job. Instead the course provides a broad overview of the cannabis industry. This starts with the historical and legal foundations of the industry and then the business impacts across the major areas of business. These areas include management, strategy, finance, accounting, marketing, real estate, ethics, etc.”

Crab-Burman (NIC): “That is exactly what we offer. The NIC has a broad and basic program preparing our grads for any entry level position and enough basic knowledge to determine where they best fit in the space. Our program covers everything cannabis employers want to see, from science to history and cultivation to medical applications of cannabis.”

Has your school been contacted directly by cannabis employers looking for candidates and graduates?

Seaborn (DU): “In recent months our school has been in dialogue with a number of major companies in the Colorado market about their human resources challenges. For many of these companies, it is not difficult to find candidates willing to work in the industry. However, it is difficult to find candidates who understand business fundamentals. The same notion goes for those interested in long-term career opportunities rather than just the short-term allure of having a cannabis job. Retaining top employees is also a challenge for them in such a rapidly-expanding industry. My course is one way we can help to develop potential candidates. However, I expect that as a school we will also find other ways to partner with the Colorado industry to address their needs.”

Crab-Burman (NIC): “Yes, we have been contacted by several dispensaries that are in the hiring process. They are looking for both grads to employ but also for training for their staff. Massachusetts required 8 hours of job specific training annually. We have those programs available to the dispensaries helping them keep in compliance.”    

Do you feel like your candidates have a “leg up” on the competition above other hopefuls looking to get cannabis careers?

Seaborn (DU): “Yes, for those who are focused on the management aspects of the industry. Prior to the introduction of this new course our students had minimal opportunity to learn about the cannabis industry. This happened even though the Colorado cannabis industry was rapidly expanding right outside their door. With this course, the students will become much more familiar with the challenges and opportunities that exist. Also, they have a chance to meet many industry leaders who could become their future employers.”

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Crab-Burman (NIC): “I do, mostly because the dispensaries have agreements with the towns they are opening in and they are often asked to hire locally for any open positions. In Massachusetts we haven’t had an industry before. Therefore, these hiring managers have to look at many different aspects than just cannabis experience. Our grads are prepared to answer nearly any question that a patient or consumer may have.”

Conclusion: Professional Training for Cannabis Careers 

There is no question that there is a huge economic boom within the cannabis industry. However, the room for error for marijuana oriented “start-up” businesses is extremely slim. This important notion lends major credence to the need for the sort of educational training provided by DU and the NIC. Because, a sound employee team can be the difference between success and failure. It seems as though these progressive programs may very well be the catalysts for translating and expressing cannabis oriented skill-sets in a fashion applicable to cannabis jobs.


This article originally appeared in the June / July 2017 edition of HydroLife Magazine.