A beginner’s guide to getting a job in Tampa Bay’s weed industry

Like, with a pay stub.

click to enlarge Available local marijuana jobs almost double the opportunities in law enforcement. - contentdealer/Adobe
Available local marijuana jobs almost double the opportunities in law enforcement.
“Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” As far as empty cliches go, there are not many others that annoy me as much as that one. If I could make a living rewatching “The Wire” and indulging my sweet tooth, I would not be writing this column. However grim as trudging off to a job might be, some industries are more appealing than others. The booming cannabis industry provides a career path for heady cannabis advocates that have been evangelizing about the medicinal properties of cannabis for free for years.
One look on the major employment websites shows that the cannabis industry is alive and well in the Tampa Area. A quick search for “Cannabis” on Indeed returns 119 pages of job listings, to contrast that “Law Enforcement” returns only 58 pages of results. Now, I am not saying that cannabis is twice as important for the economy, but it appears that Indeed is saying that. If your butthole tightened up at that comparison, you really should relax. At least I did a bit of research which is more than I can say about the people who are scared that the COVID vaccine is turning them magnetic.

Within the cannabis industry, there is an opportunity for just about everyone. Do you have retail experience? Why not get behind the counter at a dispensary? Green Thumb? Cultivation might be your calling. Delivery drivers, packaging technicians, accountants, and on and on, the jobs available in the Bay Area are as varied as they are numerous.

Suppose you are passionate about cannabis, and your current career path is proving as unfulfilling as an argument against single-payer healthcare. In that case, you might want to consider transferring your skills into the cannabis industry. It is not often that our professional lives find us in a position to promote a product or service that can radically improve people’s quality of life, and medical marijuana does just that. I spent years working for people in industries that made me question whether or not I really needed to pay my bills. When the 2008 recession hit, I was stuck working for Bubba the Love Sponge. Unable to find other work, I contemplated simply becoming homeless. Eventually, I went back to bartending because pouring craft beer for the thirsty was way more enjoyable than serving xenophobia and misogyny as entertainment.

When it comes to career advancement, I can not provide much in the way of formal advice. I have no suggestions on how to “Dress for Success.” I can not offer you the “Top 10 Things Employers Want to See On a Resume,” However, one shock jock aside, I have been pretty proud of my work history, and I have been able to work in industries that might seem closed to outsiders. From producing adult content to performing standup all over the U.S. and in multiple countries, I have carved a path towards the life I wanted to lead, however crooked that path might be.

My work history is far from traditional. It is undoubtedly not the envy of a corporate ladder climber hell-bent on being invited to this year’s leadership retreat in Sedona. Sure I would love to visit Sedona but not while having to discuss the importance of corporate synergy.

The one thing I have found beneficial for getting into a new industry is to ask for advice. So I reached out to Curaleaf to get thoughts on the booming Florida cannabis industry and how to approach finding employment within it.

When the 2008 recession hit, I was stuck working for Bubba the Love Sponge. Unable to find other work, I contemplated simply becoming homeless.

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Curaleaf is not only a leader in the cannabis industry from a retail perspective, but they are also a leader when it comes to how many people it employs. Its seven Bay Area dispensaries employ roughly 100 people, and the company has plans to add additional locations in our area. An increase of locations to better serve the needs of cannabis patients means a boost to the number of cannabis careers that they can provide. “Fine, Steve, I am convinced Curaleaf is big and getting bigger, but how can I get in with them?”

Curleaf Regional Vice-President of Retail Kate Smith was kind enough to provide us with some direction. When asked what some common traits Curaleaf looks for in prospective employees, Kate said, “Resiliency, flexibility, empathy, passion for making a personal connection, sense of urgency, and sense of humor are all great qualities that we look for in a candidate.” Additionally, she suggested that anyone interested in getting into the Florida Cannabis industry should “connect with someone that is currently employed in the market, whether it be at a dispensary, at an event, or on LinkedIn. At Curaleaf, we encourage potential employees to be themselves and to let us know why they are a rockstar.”

That is the advice from high up the corporate ladder of one of the Bay Area’s leading cannabis employers, but what would a boots-on-the-ground dispensary employee advise when it comes to getting started? I reached out to my friend Kayla. She is the manager of a well know dispensary. According to Kayla, “Most MMJ dispensaries typically look for a candidate who is able to pass a level 2 background check, due to the large quantities of product & cash that we work with on a daily basis.”

But it is not just about having a clean record. It comes back to having that passion for medical marijuana. Kayla continues, “Other than that, we typically look for people who have a genuine interest in the plant and all of the medicinal uses for it. I have found that our best employees tend to be patients themselves or have at least had some experience using the plant in their personal lives.”

Alright, gang, if you want to get into the cannabis industry, you need to get into it. Use your platforms to become an advocate for the benefits of medical marijuana, attend industry events, network, and meet people. Does the idea of networking give you immediate anxiety? I get it. As someone who spent years and years (and years and years) in marketing, I loathed nothing more than a “marketing meetup.”

“Let’s all get together and talk about the different ways we can separate people from their money for a product they probably do not need.” Blech. In hindsight, maybe marketing wasn’t for me. Anyways, if you are having an adverse reaction to the thought of getting together with like-minded cannabis professionals, then perhaps this industry isn’t for you. Because Cannabis is, after all, an industry, you need to approach it the same way you would any other profession.

The odds of you getting hired because you posted a video of yourself pulling a sick rip off of your double-bubble bong without coughing are probably low. Get involved, get engaged, and start making the industry aware of your presence. Show up, be there, and be ready when an opportunity presents itself. Not in an “Oh, shit, I need to get a restraining order kind of way.” more in the “Hey, this person is really serious about this industry way.” If I have to explain the difference to you, you probably need more help than I can provide.

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Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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