I’m often asked for suggestions on how to break into the cannabis industry. While there’s no formula for success, I’m always happy to share things I’ve discovered that could increase your chances. There are many different job possibilities, so first you may want to decide which direction you’d like to go. Are you interested in working in a grow, lab or dispensary? Many of these facilities are separate, so keep in mind that going from a budtender to a grow position (or vice versa) may not be a smooth transition. Whatever it is you aspire to be, your knowledge and network will be two keys to getting you there. Learn as much as you can about your area of interest, and network your ass off. That way, when an opportunity does arise, you’ll be sure to stand out above the competition!
Looking back, becoming a commercial cultivator was a very natural path for me and I’d recommend a similar strategy for any hopeful growers out there. Having a strong passion for the plant, I always dreamt of growing cannabis and read books about cultivation as a teenager in Northern Virginia. When I moved to Arizona, I was finally able to apply what I’d learned, and gained my first hands-on experience with a small caregiver grow. Unfortunately, that experience was short-lived due to the infamous 25-mile rule, but after spending a lot of time shopping in grow stores, my friend and I were eventually hired at one!
Cloning Coleus Plants | Sun City Hydro | @Hip2theCrop
Some of the books I read helped me build a good foundation, but working in a hydro shop gave me a deeper understanding of the equipment, nutrients and plants. I was able to see which products were popular, and gained additional insight from customers and co-workers by asking questions. There was a lot of down time at the store so I took full advantage, researching online and experimenting with the hydroponics system we had on display. We grew beautiful coleus plants, which I practiced cloning so we could give them away to our customers. I even took it upon myself to start building a social media presence for the store, and reached out to nutrient companies to get their samples in the hands of our customers. This seemed to attract more business, in turn helping me learn more from experienced growers, and of course keeping my bosses happy!
I met many talented and passionate growers through the store, which resulted in some amazing friendships like with @rhizoresearch …but I wasn’t the only one networking! My bosses were very smart to hold grow classes at the shop before we even started working there, which attracted future business partners for them as well. They were able to secure a consulting contract with a dispensary, and soon enough my friend @ermal139 and I were working in our first commercial grow facility! There, we learned from more experienced growers like @mrdrgreenthumb, and I began building a portfolio for myself as @hip2thecrop!
The Cannabis Grow Bible
Years later, I’m now working with @aerizusa, one of the largest aeroponic cannabis cultivations in the country. I often feel lucky to be where I’m at in my career, but it took a lot of hard work and determination to get here and there’s still a long way to go. There are tons of resources out there if you’re interested in learning to becoming a grower, but I’d recommend starting with books like The Cannabis Grow Bible, True Living Organics, Teaming with Nutrients, and Teaming with Microbes. You can also find a wealth of information online via google, youtube, forums, and even Instagram! Many IG accounts like @jungleboys and @miami.mango are often very helpful in answering questions and offering advice to other serious growers. The more you know the better, so you may even consider taking a course on horticulture. The guys at Sea of Green Hydroponics in Tempe are also very knowledgeable, so if you’re near Tempe it might be worth it to spend some time getting to know them!
Cloning Plants | Aeriz USA| @Hip2theCrop
If extraction, edibles, or product production is your thing, the internet will be a great resource for you as well. Learn what you can on your own, and of course take everything you read on the net with a grain of salt. Your best bet might be finding a mentor, either locally or through Instagram. I just suggest you try to build a good foundation first, so when you do have questions, they’ll be more thought out and specific. Personally, I’m much more willing to answer a DM when the question is narrowed down, rather than broad questions like “do you have any advice for growing?” As much as I enjoy helping people, my time is very limited these days, and it’s safe to assume that most experienced people in the industry are in the same boat.
Animal Cookies | AZCS | @Hip2theCrop
Would you prefer to work as a budtender or other dispensary position? I don’t have much experience on the retail side, but I will say this, I have a ton of respect for budtenders who really know their products and the benefits they offer. So if you intend to become one, it’s probably a good idea to start getting familiar! Just as I did at the hydro store, ask good questions when you visit dispensaries and take note of which products and strains are best for different health conditions. The more knowledgeable (and friendly) you are as a patient, the more likely they’ll let you know when they’re hiring for more help!
As you continue learning more about your area of interest, put yourself out there and make friends within the community! Events are a great place to do this, and not just the big ones like Errl Cup. Often the smaller events will have more industry employees than patients in attendance, which could lead to some great networking opportunities! I’ve found myself sharing joints with dispensary owners without even realizing it at first, and I’ve also been offered a couple jobs in those same circles! Consider attending one of the monthly MITA meetings (@mitaarizona) where you can network, listen to guest speakers, and learn more about the current state of cannabis in Arizona. Women Grow (@womengrow) is another wonderful organization that holds monthly events, in addition to speed hirings, so be sure to follow them as well!
There’s no need to wait for the next event to begin networking – you can start right now! Instagram has introduced me to many amazing people in the cannabis community, both locally and globally, and with great networks come great opportunities. Start building your own cannabis portfolio revolving around your passion for the plant, and you’ll be surprised where it may lead! Every canna brand in the industry is on IG, along with many of their employees and patients. Posting photos and reviews of their products is a great way to show your support and get their attention, and you don’t have to have thousands of followers for them to appreciate it. As your account grows, so does your network, as well as your chances of entering the industry! Good luck to you all, and feel free to reach out to me on Instagram (@hip2thecrop) if you ever need any additional guidance! Much love my friends…
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