By David Fiedler

Imagine that you’re not only surrounded by marijuana all day, but you’re getting paid to work with it.

Imagine a school where “higher education” isn’t just an academic phrase, it’s an accurate description.

Imagine a job where “drug testing” involves making sure that employees know the difference between indica and sativa strains of cannabis.

It sounds like a stoner’s dream. But for an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 lucky folks in one of the 15 medical marijuana states, it’s a daily reality.

It’s A Growing Industry

The average medical patient has contact with people in a number of different positions in the industry on a regular basis. There’s the doctor who writes your recommendation, and the staff in the dispensary where you buy your medicine, and…well, that’s about it, actually.

But that scenario oversimplifies a much larger picture. There’s support staff in the doctor’s office, some with professional titles or licenses (Nurse Practitioner, Physician’s Assistant) and some not (office manager, data entry). When you visit a dispensary, you mostly notice the budtender who helps you choose your medicine, but there are also office staff, security people, couriers, and so on.

And where does all that cannabis come from? There are growers, plant tenders, trimmers, and more security people. Alongside of that effort comes the people who own and work in retail hydroponic shops, gardening stores, and head shops. Behind them, their suppliers who blow glass, develop fertilizers and nutrients, and design and manufacture hardware like grow lights, tents, fans, and filters.

There are support industries behind all of these, especially attorneys and insurance, but also things like graphic design, realtors, IT staff, marketing, sales, and human resources. And then there’s media: the folks who create medical marijuana-oriented books, videos, websites and magazines…web designers, artists, photographers, publishers, and even the odd writer here and there.


You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught

There aren’t many people who will run off to medical school after hearing about this kind of opportunity, perhaps, or those who will sign up for engineering school just to learn how to design grow lights. But there are enough people excited enough by the very idea of a medical marijuana industry that some far-sighted ones have started training people for it.

Gus Escamilla is one. He’s the founder and CEO of Greenway University, which began in Southern California but two years ago moved their headquarters to Colorado (they still teach classes in California as well as a number of other medical states). In May 2010, Greenway University was approved by the Colorado Department Of Higher Education as an accredited vocational school. It was the first medical marijuana school in the country to accomplish this feat, and at this writing, remains the only one as well.

“One of the things we wanted to do from the get-go was set ourselves apart,” Escamilla told The 420 Times. “Essentially what we’ve been able to do is offer 16 courses covering everything you need to know, and all our instructors are approved by the state also.” Greenway has an internship program, job placement assistance, their own master grower and budtender certifications, and even awards MBA degrees (that’s Marijuana Business Administration, in case you were wondering).

Greenway University just opened a 25,000 square foot campus which includes not only a large teaching space but also media production studios. They are planning a complete facility under one roof through renting space to associated companies, such as Herbal Health Systems (a full-service physicians’ clinic); a hydroponics superstore; Greenway Nutrients (their own brand, developed in association with their own faculty); executive offices for attorneys, CPAs, and other professionals; and even a cannabis-friendly bank.

Escamilla clearly has his finger on the pulse of the industry. “We were instrumental in getting Lloyds’ of London to insure crops”, he told us, which is quite a coup. His educated estimate for the state of Colorado is that there are 8,000 to 10,000 people employed directly in the industry, and 20,000 total.

Those In The Ties Vs. Those In The Tie-Dyes

Oaksterdam University, which started in 2007, is quite legit indeed. Faculty members include well-known industry figures like Ed Rosenthal and Chris Conrad. The founder and president is Richard Lee, who’s probably more responsible than anyone else for reviving Oakland’s downtown and economy in general, as well as making the entire state’s medical industry what it is today. You know the famous Supreme Court case, Gonzales v. Raich? Robert Raich is an instructor there too. Laurence Lichter is the Dean Of Law.

Dale Sky Jones, the Chancellor, told us that even she “didn’t realize how perfect our motto (“the highest quality training for the cannabis industry”) was until we had lived it for a few years. It’s one of the most phenomenal transitions I’ve witnessed firsthand. You used to see this clear delineation, but now the diversity walking through our doors is tremendous. The people from the cannabis culture are starting to learn how to work with politics and business, and the business people from other industries are learning to work with – and within – the cannabis industry,” Jones said. “It’s those in the ties vs. those in the tie-dye.”

This kind of cross-pollinating isn’t just across outlook, it’s also across age boundaries. Oaksterdam’s students have ranged from 18 to 86. According to Jones, “One lady came to us because her son wanted to go. She not only took the classes but became valedictorian!” As far as jobs, she pointed out that it’s not just the obvious growers and dispensary workers, but also “real estate brokers and insurance agents and cleaning services and supplies have become experts…these are things that any mainstream industry would require.”

Oaksterdam University has taught 13,000 students since opening, which includes not only their 30,000 square foot Oakland campus but also training in Ann Arbor (Michigan), Los Angeles, and Sebastopol. “We teach best practices, whether for California law or Michigan or Ohio. Individuals most likely to have legal problems get special training in how to interact safely with law enforcement,” she told us. “A lot of what you learn isn’t just going to help you do things like grow pot, you also learn what not to do. Let us show you how to grow without burning your house down. Learning what’s not legal is just as important as what is.”

Look For The Union Label

One indication that medical cannabis has become a serious industry is that they’re getting organized.

According to Dan Rush, who is Director of Statewide Special Operations and Cannabis Division for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Local 5, there are 300 dues-paying  members and 400 “about to become dues-paying” in shops where employees have voted to accept the union. This includes including people working in education, cultivation, dispensaries,  delivery services, a cannabis cigarette company, a public health company, and a UPS-like transportation company run by ex-military and ex-police officers.

Rush estimates that there are currently 12000 people working full-time in California right now: 4000 are cultivators, self-employed growers, trimmers, small farmers, and food processors; 6,000 dispensary and support workers; 1,500 in testing laboratories; and perhaps 1,000 “floaters off the grid”. He also mentioned that the UFCW is starting to organize in other medical states such as Colorado, Arizona, Michigan, and Ohio.

The UFCW is also actively pursuing California state accreditation for apprenticeship standards for the cannabis industry, Rush told The 420 Times. That’s serious business too, which according to the state website “creates opportunities for Californians to gain employable lifetime skills and provides employers with a highly skilled and experienced workforce while strengthening California’s economy.”

And if all that weren’t enough, there’s also, a website dedicated towards finding people cannabis-oriented jobs…and in this economy, that’s quite an accomplishment. If only the Obama Administration was as interested in creating jobs as they claim to be, rather than raiding and closing dispensaries. We would see a serious, healthy, and long-term expansion in the U.S. economy!

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50 Responses

  1. philosopher888

    I would love a job in the MM field.I think Growing MM is interesting and fun.Exciting career knowing I am parcipating in helping people with illnesses,diseases,conditions.
    Like myself,Living with chronic illnesses Psoriasis 17 years,Psoriatic Arthritis 16 years.I love helping people.

  2. MJ Green

    This is a good article, however, one must learn some health skepticism in the cannabis industry. These schools don’t really teach you that. I know because I’ve been to Oaksterdam Univ. and two other cannabis schools. I was briefly employed last year by two businesses doing route sales for clones and pre-rolls. Well, after four months, I bailed.
    The clone biz laid me off and didn’t pay me. They are now closed. The other guys were running an under the table biz. What also was interested was that both of the owners were very clear that all customers were stoners, flakes, etc. Seemed funny in a “compassionate” business.
    So, do your diligence and vet any business before you sign on, you may not know what you are getting into.
    mj green

  3. TheDeacon

    My friend moved from the Prison State of Iowa to the Land of the Free Colorado in 2010. As he is a senior citizen on disability he procured a job as a “Bud Tender.” $10 an hour, as a person on disability you can only make a certain amount of money before it starts to affect you disability claim. However, to try to increase sales they fired all male workers only to hire scantily clad pretty young ladies as “Bud Tenders.” That’s not good to me although I understand there position. Sex sells.

  4. RastaVacations

    I’ve made my own occupation in the MM field for about 5 years now- and I love it. My “job” consists of traveling to really cool places and smoking the best weed on the planet, then coming home and helping those people, who have become friends, find guests to visit their resorts. I’ve met wonderful people- lifelong friends. Most people involved with my end of the business are wonderful, incredible, and very interesting folks. The general population needs to understand that not all marijuana users are total stoners, and that MANY successful people in all walks of life are regular marijuana users. Weed- it’s not just for college students and low-lifes. It’s for people smart enough to make their own decisions.

  5. Vernon Sklapsky

    To MJ green Expect some people that quickly get into it to be crooks by nature. It will take time for them to turn into legit folks, most of them anyway. Gotta believe………..

  6. Marijuana Jobs

    It’s nice to see a new industry sprout in this “bad economy”. This article failed to mention, another job board that is dedicated to the MMJ industry.

  7. Lance Michael Jewell

    I am a state certified horticulturist who has studied growing for over 15-20+years. I live in Michigan and would like to work with an honest group of people to help Michigan. I would like to work with some honest people to utilize the potential of this rapidly growing industry of jobs….contact me if there are some bold individuals who may need to calibrate to embark towards new and improved old school approach utilizing new tech enabling new breakthroughs to build a better overall life for all.

  8. Doug

    I would love to get in this growing industry. I have been growing for over 15 years & I know alot about what Im doing. If interested give me a call at 276-690-0853. Thank you i appreciate it very much

  9. wil lattimer

    I just got my med card and im am looking into working for anyone who needs an hand.I got alot of free time and i dont have a car to get around and i live in orange country.If anybody can help me please help!I need a job.

  10. Star Gill

    I have a son who suffered 2 years of chemo for non hodgkin’s lymphoblastic lymphoma stage 3 leukemia. He was 9 years old. After, a stroke from too much IV morphine, seizures, shingles and chicken pox and a yeast infection all along his esophogus,Brandyn was on his death bed for the sixth time. I finally convinced the team of doctors at the children’s hospital that was treating him to give marijuana a try. It saved his life. I want to work with the medical marijuana industry in Oregon. I have many ideas and feel I could bring a helpful presence to the industry. Please call 503-804-6469 if you have any information on how I can gain employment in this industry. Thank you.

  11. mark gonzales

    Ive been working my entire life in school go get high grades so i can become im this industry. I wanted to no if this compony gives out scolorships.

  12. Rodney Bryan

    Hello my name is Rodney Bryan and I am very passionate about growing plants especially the most beautiful one one the planet Marijuana. I have always known how plants operate and how to grow the best of the best. In whatever crop I grow I take pride in growing. I decided to make it official so I went to Stephen F. Austin State University and gotvme a bachelor of science in agriculture with an emphasis on horticulture of course. I am very qualified in knowing which plants need what and I have grown many crops of afgani cush from one plant that a friend gave me. I would love to get on board with a growing outfit that produces only the best of the best strains of Mary Jane. I also like cross pollenation and have training in grafting, cloning, tissue culture, and cross breeding.
    Thank You
    Rodney Bryan
    cross breeding. Please contact me if anyone knows where I can help out myvwife died in a car wreck last year so I am ready to get the fuck out of boring ass Texas anyway.

  13. daniel

    My dream is to work with Marijuana. anything with it really. growing, trimming, sales, etc… but I have no experience because where I live it is very illegal and there aren’t any MM programs or laws. If I could move to colorado I would have already done so. but one day im hoping to work in the Marijuana field as I really do believe thats dreams come true. to everyone working in those MM friendly states I hope to work with some ineteresting people. anyhow this is a great article. Everyone keep fighting for legalization for medical and rec use so everyone can have a chance at their dream jobs! great article also

  14. Scoop

    Looking to move too CL or LA and get my Med card and find work within the field any info or help email or txt 2467166703

  15. amy420

    I think its brillant we should have marijuana legal in all the states and it would sure get us out of the bad ass debt were in

  16. Big T

    With the economy getting worse and jobs being lost every day in the state where I live. I’ve given a lot of thought to packing up and moving to California to become a Bud Tender and possibly down the road a MM Grower. This would be my first en devour into the realm of MM as I’ve never done either. This is something I’m very interested in and believe strongly in and have had for years. I believe that MM should be legal because it does a lot of good. That if we legalized MM, we’d be out of the b.s. situation our nation is in. But that’s politics and that’s not what I’m here asking help with. What I would like to know is where’s the best place in California to go and either tend or possibly grow MM? And for a beginner such as myself, how would I even go about getting a job as a Bud Tender? And would anyone even be willing to give a newbie to the MM field a chance or am I just wasting my time?

  17. Chace

    Hey my names chace odinsson I’m 18 years old and just graduated high school, I’m a complete noob at growing but it has been a dream job for me since I first heard about the legalization of medical marijuana. I live in Rhode Island but I’m originally from Arizona. Out here the industry is just starting rather than back west, and I want to gain knowledge and skills in anyway possible,(gruntwork, apprenticeship, trimmer, budtender etc.) just to be “in the scene” and be able to learn from people who are knowledgeable in this trade to expand my knowledge base and hopefully be able to start my own dispensary or work for one in the future. If anyone can help me feel free to call or text or email me: 401 585 1126 or & thank you so much for your time.

      • Phil hughes

        Call me at 812 582 9690 Philip Hughes if wife answers tell her job opp

    • Danel Achaval

      Chase, this is a very difficult industry to get into. The laws are very grey area, the legal expenses heavy, Lloyd’s seems to be the only company that will insure growers from theft or fire, and getting a good broker seems to be a shady deal, their policies for marijuana growers are loaded with terms like “under rated” and “risk aversion”, most banks won’t give loans to people, and even getting a company to build growing utilities for growers is a very difficult thing, I recently started an association called “national association of growing advocates”, for a yearly member ship fee it will provide nationally a member ship that gives benefits to members, in all areas where marijuana is legal in one form or another, it will provide legal consulting at a decent price, Lloyd’s insurance from a well known a+ rated brokerage company, growing utility contracts at a discount, perhaps financial help and medical advisement on where to get a list of people that have prescriptions, the web site isn’t up yet but when it is I’ll post it here and you can visit it. I think it’s a fair yearly fee to provide a frame work for growers and and an association that will help them. I’m hoping to one day get over 10,000 members, maybe you can be the first one and provide feedback on the association. This isn’t a lobbying association or an ethics and standards coalition, not that I have anything against those organizations but this association is focused on the business advocate, he who believes in economic values for his neighbours and friends. I’ll put the web site here when it’s done.

  18. 420 man

    I go to Madison Area Technical College in Fort Atkinson I’m doing some work sheets about jobs and I would be interested in knowing more information so give me a cal at 9207283402 thanks for the help

  19. Philip Hughes I say it proudly

    My name is Philip Hughes I have been smoker and adorn believer in marijuana use someone please call me and tell me where to go or who to contact I wanna be able to share the peace we all deserve reach me at 812 582 9690 any time thank u

  20. Andrew Ingram

    Hey my name is Andrew Ingram. I live in tuscaloosa, alabama. I am very interested in getting into this field. I want to work with the plants, being a trimmmer, grower, etc. I want to learn the skills necessary to one day own and operate my own head shop. Please feel free to email me at :
    thank you so much for your time. I will work all hours necessary and location is not a problem.

  21. Dwreck85

    Hey my name is Derrik I am from Colorado and I am trying to find some sort of a niche in the industry. I have a lot of experience in electrical instrumentation and automation. I am looking for an opportunity to learn the industry, even if it means starting from the bottom. I am very detail oriented and technically qualified. If you can offer and suggestions or information please email me at

  22. Jimmy

    My name is Jimmy Young and i am 21. I live in duncan oklahoma and i have been trying to get into the medical marijuana feild for sometime. My email is I graduated high school a couple years ao and never had below a 96 in science

  23. Boy Lopez

    “Hey names David 17,I was in school but do to my birthday nd me no being eligable For The “A.C.E” Program i was left to get my GED. but im not looking for a regular job. Ive got two plants in there 6th to 7th week nd i have 8others behind that..
    i dont like growing illegally nd would like to do something like this for a liveing please let me know If Anyone is makeing Exceptions.
    401 keene st Galena park Texas. ~Thanks

  24. Chibiman

    My name’s Hector Casanova and I’ve been really interested in working in a dispensary. I hear you have to have your card in order to at least volunteer there so i’ll be doing or at least trying to get in for some free work here in a few months and hopefully i’ll get employed for actual profit afterwards. I live in Long Beach California and there are dispensaries everywhere. I don’t know much but once i have the cash i’ll be headed for Venice Beach to get my card and then off to a dispensary to find out if i can be of any assistance. If any of you work at these, i’d really appreciate your feedback and support for helping me to get in one. Thank you.

    • 420 Times Blogger

      My advice would be to gain serious experience before approaching a dispensary about a trimmers position. They need people to be quick and accurate. Better hurry before the industry finds a way to use illegal immigrants.(having to have a card and legal residency is the only thing keeping businesses from using these guys, trust me.) And most importantly, a formal education will take you further in life than a low-rung trimmer gig.

    • 420 Times Blogger

      haha, unfortunately the “testing” isn’t done via smoking the bud. If you are truly interested in testing strains for terpene profiles and potency it would be a great idea to obtain a formal education from an accredited university, and that is my advice for anyone, educate yourself or you’re limiting your possibilities!


    Hi my name is Bryan. Growing this natural plant is my passion in life and would love to work for a grower. I believe this plant has the abilities to cure many illnesses without any negative or permanent side effects. If anyone is hiring I would love to work and know how to grow but also know everything there is to know about this miracle plant. I’ll start from the very bottom and won’t stop. I want to help cure many human beings as possible and change lives for the better. If there is any work in this field.. Please contact me ASAP.

  26. meredith

    I just relocated to Bend, Oregon from NC. I am looking to work on a farm, trim, harvest, learn and be educated on something I believe so much in. I have been smoking for almost 8 years and would love to get into the industry. I do have my associate degree in business, my OMMP card, a reliable means of transportation, valid NCDL, and flexible schedule. I am looking to commute from Oregon to California if the money is right. I am a honest person who wants to get back into the work force but not something traditional. Please feel free to email or call me at 843-730-3792. That is my cell. Thanks! My instagram is mcalir to give you a glimpse as to what I look like.

  27. charlie Humphrey

    hey my name is Charlie Humphrey i am currently a student at the University of Massachusetts. my major is sustainable food and farming, but i am really looking to get into the growing medical marijuana industry. Any way i am looking for anyone who would need an intern for the spring summer season. if you want some free help for a season contact me. i am more then will to work my ass off for an opportunity like this. my email is and my phone number is 4132639609.

  28. Sarah Halima Dawoud Abdallah R

    Hi, My Name is Dr. Sarah Halima,

    I will like to make large sum of off-book Investment/FUND ANY ON GOING BUSINESS, am hoping to have a response from you if you seek any kind of financing, am pleased to inform you that am open for off-book investment or partnership , l have fund limit of €13.085 Million Euro only at disposal any amount needed to start up new business or company or investment, please let me know if you are interested and you can handle off-book investment of such large amount of money or less.

    Please email me with your proposal and phone number that you can be reached my by assigned fund agent.

    If you are interested, a meeting will be setup and terms can be discussed once your private business or company proposal is reviewed and is okay.

    Best Regards,
    Dr. Sarah Halima

  29. nick fortin

    Hi my name is nick I’m I high school grad without enough money to go to college I live in a medical state but there is no way to get your foot in the door(Maine). I didn’t know if anyone in Colorado or anywhere really needed a hard worker in a dispensary or grower. I just need a job somewhere first to become badged and licensed. If anyone fits that discription email me please! At thanks.

  30. Anthony Hughes

    i have been working at this job for 10 years taking care of patients and it kills watching them suffer. i need a career change. new iberia, louisiana is where i currently reside, is my email. willing to put in long hours and grunt work is no problem, in the long term i hope to grow for the best for the people!

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