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The Professionalization of The Cannabis Industry

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The cannabis industry is growing up.

With the legalization of cannabis has come an increase in the professionalism of those who are serving consumers and working behind the scenes. Staff and personnel are “leveling up” their educational qualifications within the thriving and newly-competitive industry.

Does your medical dispensary budtender know what they’re talking about?

A 2016 study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research showed that those who were serving medical cannabis often had some pretty significant gaps in knowledge. Of those who responded to the survey, only 55% of dispensary staff indicated that they’d had formal training in addressing targeted symptoms. Of that 55%, only 20-30% had any medical-related training, despite 94% revealing that they make recommendations of cannabis strains to treat medical conditions.

Is it time to raise the bar?

Earlier this year, a session of the National Cannabis Industry Association called for the new standard for those providing cannabis to medical patients. The reasoning behind these changes is the belief that the opportunity to access knowledgeable medical staff should be available at the point of sale.

A call for “higher” education

The educational standards for budtenders are changing to accommodate the demand for more knowledgeable staff. Many private institutions such as Green CultureED, Oaksterdam University, Cannabis Training Institute, and The Trichome Institute now offer variety of programs. These programs give budtenders intensive training about cannabis, compliance, and working within retail locations. Courses range from four hours to a few days, and participants are usually given a certificate of completion.

The Giving Tree, a cannabis cultivation company, is leading the way by hiring graduates straight out of college. “For us, it is really [about] trying to change the industry, trying to change the stigma [by] bringing in qualified people,” said The Giving Tree’s CEO Lilach Mazor Power to Forbes. Power employs two highly-trained chemists and more than half of her 56 staffers have college diplomas and several hold master’s degrees.

“For cultivation, I look for students with a degree related to agriculture. For extraction, I will look for someone with a chemistry or biology degree and background. For inventory, I look for MBA and supply management degrees and so on,” she says.

Will you soon need a university degree to work in cannabis? Quite possibly. There is, however, an upside: Vangst just released their first ever salary and jobs guide, revealing that top salaries for positions like Director of Cultivation within a grow facility can reach up to $250K per year.

The future of cannabis professionalism

The bar has been raised as dispensaries engage in competitive tactics designed to bring more customers through the door, including focusing on their customer service and demonstrated cannabis expertise.

Increasingly within the cannabis community, more doctors like Michele Ross* and other medical professionals like Oov’s own “Dear Nurse” column are emerging as strong advocates of informed advice and safe consumption. Gone are the Jeff Spicoli-like budtenders of yesteryear.

If you’re currently in school, it may be worth your while to consider the ways in which your course of study might lead you to cannabis. As an increasing number of customers request more informed dispensary staff and the industry demand for educated new hires grows, the job opportunities for graduates in related fields will become more numerous.

This is the “flowering” of the cannabis industry we’ve been waiting for.

* Use Code Oov25off and get a discount on classes.



Anne-Marie is a freelance cannabis writer and educator dedicated to cultivating and disseminating important knowledge about cannabis as legalization spreads across the globe.  After earning her BA and Masters, she followed an exciting career in the research and education field, finding innovative ways to create collaborations between community needs and research and academic pursuits.
Based in Canada, she is a full time writer for the world’s best cannabis companies, advocates and organizations.


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