Vangst Report Sees Cannabis Job Creation Increasing

Cannabis employment company Vangst recently released its new “Cannabis Industry Salary Guide” and while some news is encouraging, there is still a long way to go for cannabis companies. On a positive note, job creation is increasing, and more women are employed by cannabis companies. Unfortunately, entry-level jobs don’t pay much more fast food gigs and the employees are overwhelmingly white.

The Good News

Vangst projects that 26,241 new cannabis jobs will be added by 2025. The company bases this projection on the five newly legalized states: Arizona, New Jersey, Mississippi, Montana, and South Dakota.

State Arizona New Jersey Mississippi Montana South Dakota
2019 Cannabis Jobs 15,059 2,356 0 1,800 0
Projected 2025 cannabis jobs 16,037 21,393 1,509 2,552 2,965
Increase +978 +19,037 +1,509 +1.752 +2,965

Figures provided by Vangst

Vangst said that maturing markets are seeing a shift in hiring trends as companies adapt to a new pandemic environment. Many companies had to cut back on its employees as COVID disrupted the retail and office environments. Companies also had to move towards more digital options and increase delivery capabilities. Vangst said industry hiring is now returning to pre-pandemic levels.

The report noted it has seen an uptick in companies posting production-related careers resulting in more manufacturing, cultivation, production and supply chain jobs. Sales and marketing jobs have rebounded from the early pandemic cutbacks and maturing companies are adding to HR and finance teams.

Vangst also noted in its report that cannabis companies are beginning to seek out people with past cannabis experience. It had been the trend for cannabis companies to want to hire people from outside industries. The strategy was that the outsiders would bring expertise from other industries and apply it to cannabis. However, this strategy hasn’t always been successful and now it seems cannabis experience is getting more respect.

Karson Humiston, founder, and CEO of Vangst said, “On the executive side, we sort of saw a rush for executives in early 2019. Now, we saw a lot of executives being laid off. I mean because it’s kind of unrealistic for MSO’s to think they’re going to get the CMO from Coca-Cola and that’s what people were trying, you know? Now we’re seeing much stronger demand for mid-level management, more so than the executive level role. Cannabis businesses need people that can actually roll up their sleeves and execute. That’s not a CMO from Pepsi, right? The CMO from Pepsi hasn’t day-to-day managed people in 20 years.

Vangst lists the following jobs that are most in demand:

  • Cultivation Technicians
  • Trimmers/Packagers
  • Budtenders
  • Directors of Cultivation
  • Delivery Drivers and Logistic Coordinators
  • Sales Reps
  • Digital Marketing & e-Commerce
  • Administrative and Corporate Roles
  • Lab Managers
  • Directors of HR

The Not So Good News

Salaries for entry-level cannabis jobs don’t pay much more than a fast-food worker. While trimmers are listed as one of the top jobs in demand, the reality is that these jobs only pay between $14.50-$16.00 an hour. Budtenders are the most important customer-facing job in a dispensary. These employees help customers choose a purchase and often work to upsell a customer. They are expected to have a great deal of knowledge about the product for adult-use cannabis and sometimes even medical marijuana. Yet, these positions only pay between $14.50-$17.00 an hour. The lowest pay is in Florida, where budtenders average $12.50 an hour. California pays $16.50, making it the highest paid.

Humiston said, “I hear in some of these states a budtender is making less than $13 an hour. If that budtender worked a $13 an hour job, 40 hours a week … and if they worked 50 weeks a year, they would still be below the poverty line. That just doesn’t add up to me. But what I will say is that I think there’s definitely room for companies to pay their employees more. If you compare this to light industrial or service industries, it’s kind of inline. I don’t think it’s just a cannabis industry problem.

Social Equity seems to be more talk than action. 44% say their companies don’t participate in any social equity programs and 86% have not been social equity candidates. When it comes to diversity hiring, 46% say the company has a plan, but 35% say their company has no diversity hiring plan. When looking at who has been hired Vangst found that over 60% are white, followed by roughly 10% that are Latinx and even fewer as Black. On a positive note, 41% of the cannabis professionals are listed as female-identifying versus 51% as male-identifying.

Who’s Benefiting?

One area where cannabis companies are excelling is benefits. The Vangst report found that as job openings increase, benefits coverage has expanded as well. 57.8% of cannabis workers said that their benefits were equal to or better than the industry they left. The Vangst report showed that medical insurance coverage increased by 3.5%, paid time off increased by 4.9%, and that 90% of all surveyed cannabis companies offered some form of benefits.

Even better than insurance and paid time off, 29% of the companies were offering 401(k) plans and 27% offered equity ownership plans. 52% of the companies said they even offered 401(k) matching plans. That’s becoming rarer in traditional industries.  Cannabis companies are also sweetening the deal with creative perks. Life insurance and pet insurance are beginning to crop up in job offers. Even cell phone allowances are a perk that is on the rise.

While cannabis may not be recession-proof, hiring certainly seems to be on the upswing again. Many states had looked to legalization as a way to create jobs and then those jobs began to disappear as capital dried up. That made the cannabis promise of jobs look like an empty one, but as hiring seems to have returned, the industry is looking like a savior once again.

Humiston added, “Four years ago if I said, you know, we could get a regional manager overseeing a few dispensaries to make 150 grand. Everyone would have totally laughed. Now, that’s standard. I think it will continue going up. I really do.”

Debra Borchardt

Debra BorchardtDebra Borchardt

Debra Borchardt is the CEO, Co-Founder, and Editor-In-Chief of GMR. She has covered the cannabis industry for several years at Forbes, Seeking Alpha and TheStreet. Prior to becoming a financial journalist, Debra was a Vice President at Bear Stearns where she held a Series 7 and Registered Investment Advisor license. Debra has a Masters degree in Business Journalism from New York University.


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