14 Kinds of Jobs Sustained By Marijuana

Marijuana is one American industry that's showing some promise in the job market.

The U.S. job market, to use a purely academic term, sucks. A net of zero jobs were created in August. Dismal prospects face the 25.3 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed, or who have given up their job search --- so could you blame any of them for calming their anxiety by smoking a bowl of their favorite bud?

Marijuana is, coincidentally, one American industry that's showing some promise in the job market. Currently, 16 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized cannabis for medical use. The burgeoning medical marijuana industry is quietly creating thousands of jobs across the country -- and most of them don't require being anywhere near a cannabis plant.  There's no exact number on how many new jobs have been created by medical cannabis nationwide. But clues are out there. The Web site Indeed.com, which tracks trends in online job sites, reports that job listings mentioning "medical marijuana" grew over 3,000 percent since 2005. In Montana, one study conducted by cannabis advocacy groups reported 1,400 new jobs had been created in that state, and that approximately 70 percent of those workers had been previously unemployed.

In addition to helping people bring home a paycheck, the work created by medical cannabis is pumping tons of cash into state and local economies through taxes and business license fees.

Here's a list of 14 jobs available in medical cannabis:

1. Recommending physicians

Thumb through the pages of many of today's alt-weekly papers -- and, ever more commonly, the mainstream dailies -- and you'll find ads for doctors providing cannabis referrals for new or returning patients. These board-certified physicians determine if cannabis is the right choice for patients suffering from cancer, HIV, depression, anxiety, or other ailments.

2. Physician's assistants

Depending on how busy a recommending physician's office can get, the doctor will be assisted by staff making appointments, answering phones, processing paperwork and printing cannabis recommendation letters.

3. Growers

There'd be no cannabis industry without growers. Many of today's growers are college graduates in botany or horticulture or people with years of growing experience. They maximize plant yield and potency while fighting off pests and mold.

4. Budtenders

Storefront medical cannabis dispensaries employ highly trained "budtenders" who help recommend the right cannabis strain to fit a patient's needs. They help people navigate the sometimes dizzying variety of available buds, edibles and tinctures.

5. Dispensary operators

Storefront cannabis dispensaries require owners and operators with the entrepreneurial sense to manage not only their suppliers, growers and employees, but to make sure their businesses operate within the limits of ever-changing local regulations.

6. Security guards

Given the large amounts of cash and cannabis kept on hand, dispensaries are sometimes targeted for robberies. Dispensaries hire security guards to make sure nothing bad goes down.

7. Dispensary administrators

Like any business that employs dozens of people, the larger dispensaries need staff to process payroll and benefits, pay business taxes, manage hiring and supervise. Dispensary operators may need an assistant to handle scheduling and travel.

8. Solar panel specialists

There's a growing movement to make the cannabis industry as green as possible. Several solar panel companies across the country are helping growers harness the sun's abundant rays to power their lighting rigs without sucking electricity from fossil fuel sources. These solar companies employ sales reps, consultants and installers, too.

9. Delivery drivers

Some cannabis patients, like those who are wheelchair-bound, may have difficulty making it to a dispensary or grower. Drivers work independently or with storefront dispensaries to deliver cannabis to such patients.

10. Lab techs

As the cannabis industry matures, patients are becoming more concerned with the safety and potency of their medication. A handful of labs are springing up to test buds and edibles for their THC and CBD levels and to make sure they're pesticide-free. The labs are run by university-educated scientists using the same high-powered testing equipment as pharmaceutical companies.

11. Marketing specialists

Like any business, cannabis dispensaries need ad campaigns and marketing plans to reach their patients. Marketing gurus help place ads in papers, and manage social networks.

12. Lawyers

Recent cannabis festivals in the Bay Area have featured panels on the legal issues facing patients and dispensaries. Up until a few years ago, cannabis lawyers were focused mostly on criminal defense cases. But as medical cannabis edges toward the mainstream, a number of lawyers now specialize in helping growers, patients and dispensaries navigate the legal complexities surrounding the industry, from business taxes to permitting issues.

13. Insurance agents

Insurance agencies across the country have sprung up offering coverage to people or businesses working in the cannabis industry. Growers, dispensaries, delivery drivers and edible manufacturers all have their unique coverage needs. Insurance agencies even offer crop coverage.

14. Government jobs

Yes, even the public sector is getting a boost from the cannabis industry. As more state and local governments create regulations for the medical cannabis industry, they need specialized staff to collect taxes, answer questions from the public and ensure that cannabis distributors are complying with the law.

Ted Cox is a writer from Sacramento, Calif.
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