Imagine you could scrap everything archaic about America’s business culture and start anew. How would an utterly modern enterprise operate?
Would you create a meritocracy, where what you know matters more than who you know or how you look? Would you hire a diverse team of passionate, multi-cultural, purpose-driven people and empower them to innovate? Would you work to address issues like gender fairness, sustainability, and social inequity all for the common good?
If you think any of those actions would enhance your work-life experience, cannabis is hiring. Like, really hiring.
„There are more cannabis jobs opening up every day than there are people with experience to fill them,” says Karson Humiston, founder and CEO of Vangst, the leading cannabis industry career site. „If you’re sick of working in an industry dominated by middle-aged white men and seriously want to move into a career that prioritizes talent, social responsibility, diversity and inclusion, I’ve got a job for you.”
Humiston sees unlimited growth potential in the industry and projects the cannabis workforce will triple in five years. It’s not a wild estimate. According to Nielsen, total sales of legalized cannabis are expected to reach $41 billion by 2025, up from $8 billion today. When you figure that only 11 of 50 states permit recreational marijuana at the moment, a steady, explosive growth rate is feasible.
Regardless of regulations, cannabis is one of the most rapidly expanding industries ever tracked, and its progress is not only measured in terms of revenue. Cannabis is creating a new paradigm for the foundation on which companies are built and run. „We’re not disrupting a business,” says Karston, „we’re building a brand-new industry from the ground up.”
„We have no legacy from a corporate perspective, so we are much more reflective of today’s culture and community,” says Andrew Floor, VP of marketing at Dixie Brands, one of the first-to-market consumer cannabis companies. Unlike age-old banking institutions or automotive companies that are forced to make constant effort to evolve their business practices, Dixie was born woke. „From day one, we’ve wanted to do things the right way,” says Floor, „which is demonstrated by our commitment to the environment, social justice, and diversity.”
As a nascent industry without an established corporate culture, cannabis has an edge in organizational innovation and driving meaningful corporate responsibility.
„Companies are searching for coherent ways to tie social impact back to what they do but are challenged to create a direct connection to their core mission and vision,” says Rachael Ellison, a corporate strategist who advises leaders on workplace policies and practices. „Oil, finance, tech – these are all industries fighting against engrained behaviors, so making sweeping changes is very difficult,” she says. „Values have to be authentic; leaders can’t just put them on paper and expect to shift their organizations to become more inclusive, open, and thoughtful.”
„We want our workforce and our values to align with the community we’re building our company to serve,” says Floor, who notes that everyone who works at Dixie Brands embodies the company’s core values.
„Our company naturally attracts visionaries with an innate desire to make a difference in the world,” says Floor, adding that Dixie has no formal policy about diversity or inclusion and doesn’t need one. „We look for the best people for the job, so our team is organically diverse and balanced.” Floor reports that his department represents the modern cannabis consumer; it is mostly women.
Women are thriving in every single role of the cannabis industry, from cultivation to extraction to marketing and sales. @ According to new research by MJBiz Daily, women currently hold 37% of the executive roles in the cannabis industry, and the trend is moving up. Compare that to an average of 21% in all other US businesses. „Generally, cannabis companies don’t have an established employee hierarchy – everyone is on a level playing field and is being considered on their merits, not what they look like,” says Cassandra Farrington, CEO of MJBIz Daily. „That dynamic creates opportunities for women and people of color who are eager to punch above their weight.”
With three women in the c-suite, Flouresh, a medical cannabis start-up in Michigan is deeply committed to building an inclusive workforce, and prioritizes extending career opportunities to those who have been hurt by previous laws. „We value a team with diverse attitudes, opinions, experiences, and voices,” says Leah Bailey, CEO of Flouresh. „We enjoy our work so much more because of it.”
It’s a carpe diem moment for those willing to risk jumping into a business emerging from prohibition. Bailey, a seasoned consumer products executive with a pedigree in beauty and telecom, briefly considered if cannabis was the right career move. „I thought there could be a stigma, but actually when you tell people about cannabis, they get really interested,” she laughs. „It takes over the dinner conversation.”
Ultimately, Bailey was drawn to the cannabis business by the chance to do everything differently, from gathering consumer insight to product innovation. „We’re looking closely at what the market needs and working to meet that need with a modern wellness toolkit,” says Bailey. Her team is developing a high-quality product line for an audience she describes as accepting, curious, confident, and most importantly, willing to opt-in.
Lindsey Levin shares Bailey’s excitement for a career on the forefront of an emerging, high-growth consumer category. Before joining Flouresh as CMO, where she’s learning to sell cannabis flower, oils, and edibles, she marketed RX Bars and Pepsi to the masses. „I’m a student of the industry, and what better way to learn about marketing cannabis than from the ground floor, inside out, bottom-up?” she says, adding, „And consumers are so welcoming to us.”
Consumers are embracing the product, to be sure. MJ Biz Daily reports that some cannabis brands are seeing 100-200% year-over-year growth. By contrast, 3-4% growth is considered significant in a traditional CPG category.
As more cannabis markets open up, there will be more dynamic expansion, more brand and product innovation, plus the opportunity to actively shape a new model of business. The sense of optimism, energy and excitement is palpable to everyone drawn to this skyrocketing industry.
„More than anything,” says Levin, „I’m just having fun learning.”