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Wondering what you need to know about cannabis cultivation careers?
It’s no surprise that cannabis cultivation careers are on the rise due to new marijuana laws and shifting attitudes across the world.
As of today, 34 states have medical marijuana laws on the books, while 10 states plus Washington D.C. permit adult marijuana use. According to a 2019 report published by Leafly titled “Special Report: Cannabis Jobs Count,” legal cannabis sales increased 34 percent in 2018, reaching $10.8 billion.
Cannabis Jobs are Booming
A skyrocketing industry wouldn’t be possible without a history of advocacy and a wealth of employees currently hired in legal cannabis companies. Leafly estimates that as of 2019, there were more than 211,000 full-time cannabis jobs in America. If you count ancillary positions such as lawyers and accountants, the job count goes up to 296,000.
Research from Glassdoor dating back to December 2018 found that the median salary for marijuana industry job openings was $58,511. That’s 10.7 percent higher than the national median salary. Generally, cannabis-related positions pay better than their traditional counterparts. However, compensation depends largely on qualifications and responsibilities.
Cannabis cultivation positions are one of the most in-demand positions, although this varies by geographic location. Grow positions can range from entry-level bud trimmers to high-paying directors of cultivation, each with their own set of qualification requirements. If you’re interested in learning more about the marijuana cultivation industry, here’s what you need to know.
Legal Cannabis Cultivation Careers
A small, medium, or large-scale growing operation requires an adept team of employees working toward producing the best cannabis plants possible. In most cases, employees must be over the age of 21. You may also be required to pass a background check to get a legal cannabis cultivation job.
Whether you’re growing indoor, outdoor, urban, or rural hemp or cannabis, these are the main cannabis cultivation positions available across major and cannabis-centric job boards.
Director of Cannabis Cultivation
A Director of Cultivation leads an entire grow operation. They’re in charge of overseeing the entire scope of a plant’s life cycle—from developing standard operating procedures to planning nutrient and harvest schedules. Directors must also develop pest management solutions, as well as hire and train new staff. Becoming a head grower or director of cultivation might require decades of experience. A Master’s degree or a Ph.D in horticulture or a related field will help you stand out.
According to a 2018 Salary Guide published by Vangst, a cannabis recruiting platform, a Director of Cultivation could earn $47,000 a year for an applicant with low experience and skill level. Average experience and skill levels earn candidates $88,000 per year. A lot of experience and high skill levels can earn candidates as much as $140,000 to $250,500.
Assistant Cannabis Grower
Assistant growers, also known as cultivation supervisors, don’t have as many responsibilities or as high a salary as a master grower, but they are a vital part of a cultivation team. They work alongside the head grower or horticulturist and support them across multiple cultivation activities including propagation, pruning, transplanting, fertilization, irrigation, and pest management.
Prospective assistant growers must have solid knowledge of growing plants and required horticultural practices. Assistant growing positions can pay candidates between $75,000 to $80,000 per year on the high end. On the low end, assistant growers can expect to earn between $15 to $17.50 an hour (data based on positions in major job boards like Indeed).
Trimming cannabis buds can be a great entry-level position for someone looking to work their way up in the cannabis industry. Trimmers are in charge of manicuring and preparing cannabis plants for sale after harvest, but they often do other types of work at grow facilities. Trimmers must also know how to prepare, clean, and store buds with excellent bag appeal.
Vangst’s data reveals that trimmers can earn anywhere between $11.50 to $14.50 an hour. Low experience and skill levels will likely draw the bottom end of the range, while an average experience and skill level will pay around $12.50 an hour. High-level trimmers with lots of experience can earn $13 to $14.50 an hour.
Hemp and Cannabis Cultivation
Of course, the type of cannabis grown dictates salary, qualifications, and responsibilities. Although cannabis and hemp cultivation require different growing methods, the methods are not radically different. Both plants are affected by weather and pests, but hemp can be trickier to handle due to its recent introduction into the American economic landscape.
Hemp has largely been viewed as a sturdy plant resistant to pests and pathogens, but that may change once pathogens adapt to the changing environment. Some hemp farmers have already noticed their hemp crops being afflicted with disease. Hemp and cannabis cultivation will both provide job opportunities, but each will require specialized knowledge to troubleshoot problems.
Indoor and Outdoor Cultivation
Apart from the type of cannabis plant grown, cannabis cultivation operations differ in the way they are set up. The two main types of grow operations are indoor and outdoor grows.
Indoor grows are typically inside a large-scale warehouse facility stocked with high-powered lights and state-of-the-art HVAC systems to regulate temperature and humidity. Indoor cultivation requires a large amount of energy and specialized equipment to operate.
Outdoor grows often cater to eco-conscious consumers looking for a naturally grown cannabis product. Often, high-volume operations that produce plants for extraction also grow cannabis outdoors. While outdoor cultivation may yield a high volume of beautiful buds, these operations are vulnerable to environmental elements such as pests and weather. Some outdoor grows lose more than half of their yield to extreme weather conditions and disease.
Rural and Urban Cultivation
Generally, cannabis positions are found in large cities in states that have legal cannabis laws. Many cultivation facilities are relegated to industrial parks in urban areas, while others flock to small towns in rural areas. Many rural counties have successfully stimulated their economies by welcoming the cannabis industry and cultivation. Their affordable land and pot-friendly regulations have attracted a surge of cannabis growers.
Cannabis cultivation careers aren’t a dime a dozen, but there has been an increase of positions in this job sector in recent years. As more states continue to legalize medical and recreational cannabis, people with green thumbs will have more and more opportunities to take part in today’s “green rush.” If you’re interested in learning more about cannabis cultivation techniques to get your grow career started, enroll in Cannabis Training University’s certification program today.
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Luis Cordova is a distinguished author, and renowned expert in cannabis cultivation, who possesses a Master's degree in Plant Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Science. As a valued contributor to highly esteemed publications such as Cannabis Training University and Maximum Yield Magazine, Luis has emerged as a trusted source of guidance and knowledge in the cannabis industry. Having written thousands of informative articles, Luis is widely recognized for his comprehensive expertise on cultivating cannabis, both indoors and outdoors.