How to Get a Job in the Cannabis Industry

January 2020

As we all know, cannabis is now legal in the state of Illinois and there’s been so much buzz that you almost can’t turn on the news and not hear a special on cannabis! So what does this mean for everyone living here in Illinois looking to get involved in this brand new recreational industry?

Where do I start?

We often get questions at our events and classes from people who want to work in the industry on where to start, so of course, we thought it’d be great to explain the many avenues to get involved!

First, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What are my talents?
  2. What do I enjoy?
  3. Is there an overlap between my talents and what I enjoy?
  4. In what environment would I thrive?
  5. What are my goals?
  6. What inspires me?

Find a quiet place, dive deep, and write down your answers as you let your mind wander freely.

Network, network, network!

You absolutely CANNOT network and get out there enough in the Illinois market. There are events almost every week that give people the opportunity to meet other like-minded people. None of us is an island, and you absolutely cannot be successful as a lone wolf in the cannabis industry.

Search “cannabis events near me” in Google and even “cannabis events” in Eventbrite. Be sure to follow the organizations with events that resonate with you, so that you get a notification every time they have a new event.

Have business cards/resumes ready to go and ALWAYS send a follow-up email when you meet someone!

Have business cards/resumes ready to go and ALWAYS send a follow-up email when you meet someone!

Other Ways to Network:

  • Join Facebook groups
  • Volunteer for an advocacy group
  • Make yourself known throughout online job boards by connecting with recruiters
  • Maximize the features of LinkedIn to find others working in positions you are interested in


You never stop learning, no matter how much wisdom, knowledge and experience you have under your belt.

What does that look like? Well, it’s different for everyone, but this could be workshops, classes, seminars, conferences, and certifications.

Do your own self-study and invest in your knowledge any way you see fit.

Apply to Jobs that Interest You!

While the recreational industry has just begun, cannabis has been in full effect in Illinois since 2014. Open positions are now on the rise and it’s important you make sure you stand out from the rest.

Update your resume which a fresh new layout, include any credentials or certificates you’ve earned, and ACTUALLY WRITE A COVER LETTER instead of just blindly submitting a resume.

Working with staffing agencies to get as many eyeballs on your resume as possible!

Explore Creative Ways to Work in the Industry

Too often, people assume that their best option is to just become a budtender. While being a budtender is a great job, it may not be best for everyone.

With that said, sometimes it’s best to evaluate what your background and experience entail. Almost always, whatever you do now somehow can tie into supporting the cannabis industry.

Though the legal restrictions of different positions or opportunities will vary, there are numerous traditional roles that need to be filled in:

  • Accounting
  • Graphic Design
  • Marketing
  • Web Development
  • Legal
  • Consulting
  • Operations
  • Logistics
  • Transportation
  • General Contracting
  • Lab & Chemistry

There are many other departments that need qualified candidates, so keep your mind open as you explore opportunities.

This is what we call an “ancillary business”. Everyone likens the growing cannabis industry to the Gold Rush in America. Well, we all know that those who were most successful in the Gold Rush were the companies selling the tools to get to the gold (i.e. the ancillary businesses).

A Shortlist of Positions Available in the Cannabis Industry

The explosive growth in the cannabis industry may have ebbs and flows, but it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down any time soon. Because the potential is so high, there’s an immense opportunity for growth within the field. The industry is set to add more than 400,000 jobs in the next two years.

To determine if your experience makes you a good candidate, we have created a shortlist positions and qualities commonly sought after:


A budtender is to a dispensary what a bartender is to a bar. Also referred to as “cannabis consultants”, budtenders help customers make decisions about finding the best strain of cannabis that’s a perfect fit for the customer.

To be successful, budtenders will need to be highly educated about many things:

  • The cannabis plant and its components
  • The cannabis industry
  • Dispensary products
  • Marijuana cultivation and the various strains
  • Rules and regulations that govern the cannabis industry as they relate to medical marijuana and cannabis products sold on the retail side

As the proliferation of legalization continues to expand, the number of dispensaries will continue to increase so this a position many cannabis companies are eager to fill.

How will you land a position?

Don’t think just because you are seeking a job in the field of marijuana that you can dress unprofessionaly. Pick attire you would wear as if you had an interview at any other well-known retail establishment.

It should be understood, but refrain from getting high before your interview. Some people incorrectly believe they must be avid cannabis consumers to be relatable. But dispensary owners are running a business. They want reliable professionals just like any other business owner.

As you are speaking with the hiring manager, show off your knowledge about the industry and the skills you have that are related to the position. If you don’t have experience with cannabis specifically, discuss your retail experience, how you enjoy being in a collaborative environment, and how well you work with customers.

Bud Trimmer

Technically, a bud trimmer is a gardener but one that’s highly specialized. You would trim plants by hand so it produces the best buds. It’s possible that in addition, you may be responsible for establishing the plant’s weight, ensuring they are packaged properly, and labeling the packages.

If you have a green thumb or want to transition out of typical grounds keeping, becoming a bud trimmer is an excellent way to break into the cannabis industry as it is one of the most common positions available at the entry level.

Dispensary Manager

Do you have managerial skills? Have you ever run an office? If so, you could qualify as a dispensary manager. You would oversee daily operations and manage relationships with vendors.

Most importantly, you will ensure your location is operating in compliance with the law. Before interviewing, we suggest familiarizing yourself with the regional legislation governing the dispensary.

Having experience in human resources is a plus considering you will be hiring and training staff and running the dispensary just like a retail store.

According to an article by CNBC, workplace theft costs U.S. companies more than $50 billion annually. So, it’s a good idea to oversee stock and supplies.

Though still a bit tumultuous, the cannabis industry is an exciting field filled with potential. Though the difficulties of legislation and social inequities are still present, there is an enormous upside for someone who is driven and ambitious.

Are you interested in obtaining a career in cannabis? At Illinois Equity Staffing, we’re focused on empowering communities disadvantaged by the war on drugs to reap the opportunities the cannabis industry has to offer. Contact us today if you’d like to learn how we may be able to help you!

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