How much money you can make in weed: The complete guide to salaries in the cannabis industry

How much money you can make in weed

So, you want to work in pot? Maybe it’s one of your long held dreams. Or perhaps you’re under the impression you’ll get rich. Or maybe you simply have a passion for the plant, and don’t want to do anything else. Regardless of your motivation, you’ll want to know what kind of compensation you can get. Whether you’re a veteran, new to the business, or just curious, you need to know how much money you can make in weed: The complete guide to salaries in the cannabis industry.

The complete guide to weed jobs?

Yes, complete. If you recall, we’ve discussed the many career opportunities you can get in cannabis in the past. But what we want to do now is expand on those, break them down, and provide you the ranges. Of course, this is all based on cost of living, depending on where you live, the maturity of the cannabis market, and demand.

Adjust for Cost of Living

Before we get to that, a few caveats: The salary ranges we quote below are just that, ranges. You’ll want to make sure that you check the cost of living adjusted for each respective city you’re considering working in. Here are a few good tools:

Salary.com

In addition to this long time salary site offering great, detailed compensation info, you can also find a helpful calculators. This one helps you calculate cost of living by entering your profession, salary, and city, then allowing you to compare it to another.

SmartAsset

SmartAsset has a lot of great features, and one is their cost of living calculator. You can plug in two cities, and compare salary adjustments between the two. Additionally, you can compare tax, food, and housing costs. Check it out here.

NerdWallet

This one does the same as the other two, but features more cities in a grid. You can get more of an overall sense of how far your money will go, and where.

Industry Trade Groups

Check out the below for well established national cannabis trade groups to participate in. We strongly, strongly recommend that if you want to make a career in cannabis, especially if you’re new to the industry, you get involved. If you do, you’ll learn and develop relationships.

Participating in trade groups is by far the best way to make a lateral move into a new industry, especially if you are mid career or beyond. Not only will you meet valuable contacts, but you can also find solid, reliable job training programs as well. All at affordable rates, since these are non profits.

These are national organizations that can also point you to state resources as well:

National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA)

NORML

Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)

Marijuana Business Association (MJBA)

Cannabis Business Association

Cannabis Business Alliance

Minority Cannabis Business Association

Ok great, but let’s get to it. How much money you can make in weed?

We’ve got the most common job descriptions in the weed industry for you below, with salaries. Again, remember to adjust these for cost of living in your chosen city.

Dispensary Owner

If you like owning your own business, and you’ve got the drive and desire, you should consider owning your own dispensary.

What you’ll do

As you would assume, this is a jack of all trades, overall management position. You will oversee all operations, including cultivation, harvesting, processing, and distribution. In addition, you’ll manage the staff, budgeting, finances, marketing, customer service, HR, and more. You will be the face of the dispensary. It’s not a gig for the faint of heart, but if you’ve got the chops for it, and you’re committed over the long haul, the rewards could be great.

Experience you’ll need

Even if you don’t have marijuana industry experience, you might have transferrable skills. If you’ve operated a business before, especially in consumer packaged goods, you can get up to speed quickly. Additionally, if you have a professional services background, you’ll be able to use those skills.

Additional details

You’ll need to apply for and acquire a dispensary license, which can be a costly and lengthy process, depending on which state you’re in. However, if you’re an experienced entrepreneur, know how to raise capital, and get through dense paperwork, this option could be for you.

How much you can make

It’s all over the place, same as you would expect for any other type of business owner. The range is anywhere from $100,000 through the low seven figures. Of course, the more profitable your dispensary is, and the better your numbers are, the more you will make over time.

Budtender

If you’re looking for a solid entry level opportunity, and you like dealing with the public, this is a great option to consider.

What you’ll do

We’ve talked about this one before, but let’s revisit. In short, a budtender works on the front lines of a dispensary or store in a customer facing position. They help the customer by offering suggestions, answering questions, handling all of the products and showcase special items for sale. They do this for both recreational and medical-use sales.

Experience you’ll need

Strong customer service skills is a great start. Additionally, you should also have a passion for cannabis, and the culture as a whole. This is an ideal time to take classes and professional training, so you can get up to speed on the industry.

How much you can make

The average salary salary in the U.S. for a budtender is $34,896. Pay usually starts around $30,000, and can go up to $40,000 on the high end. No, you’re not going to get rich in this job, but it’s a great entry level opportunity to get your foot in the door. You’ll learn everything you need to know about the retail side of the business. If you want to move up the ladder and eventually get into a higher paying position, this is a great opportunity to consider.

Trimmer

Bud trimmer is another excellent entry-level job in cannabis. It’s a great way to break into a marijuana cultivation career with plenty of room for upward mobility.

What you’ll do

Bud trimmers are responsible for manicuring the plants. This includes hand-trimming the buds during harvest season. You will work under master growers and master extraction technicians, as they manage the plant from seed to harvest.

Experience you’ll need

You don’t need any special training or education to qualify for one of these jobs, though any experience you can bring to the table is always a plus. Even if it’s black market. Additionally, a willingness to learn on the job is vital, and will help you move up the ranks to secure other opportunities.

How much you can make

The average bud trimmer earns $20,000 to $25,000 per year. Again, you’re not going to get set up for life in one of these gigs. But you’ll gain experience and the chance to advance to a more senior level position in weed, over time.

Extraction Technician

A cannabis extraction technician is a bit of a lab rat. If you like that kind of life, and you want to get deep into the science, this could be a path for you. You learn the techniques of the master extractor, and work your way up.

What you’ll do

You will remove THC, CBD, and many other cannabinoids from cannabis plants. You’ll do this for both the medicinal and recreational effects that customers are seeking from weed. So you’ll need the ability to be able to identify and distinguish these cannabinoids, and how to transfer them into high quality, potent concentrates.

Experience you’ll need

Since you’ll be doing skilled lab work, using solvents like CO2 and butane to put together concentrates, you’ll need more than a little bit of a science background. This job comes with a risk of injury, if you don’t know what you’re doing. As a result, you’ll find that technicians have a degree in chemistry, engineering, or a related field. In fact, many who work in this field even have a PhD, so that’s who you’ll be competing with. You need to be a trained scientist to work in this field, so it’s hard to get around a formal, advanced education in order to do so.

How much you can make

Due to the highly educated background you need, you can make anywhere from $75,000 to $125,000 annually. You’ll be a trained scientist in a professional setting, so expect to make a very respectable salary. 

Master Extractor

Is your goal to be a master extractor, eventually? Maybe it should be, if you like taking on a tremendous amount of responsibility, you have a thick skin, and have no problem being the face of your team. You might highly succeed in this role.

What you’ll do

You’ll oversee the entire production facility and you’ll be responsible for your staff turning cannabis bud extracts into oils and concentrates. Additionally, you’ll supervise all administrative functions and manage all of the employees working in the production plant. This is more of a managerial role than one in which you’ll have your hands on the plant day in and day out.

Experience you’ll need

You will work your way up from an extraction technician role, after you’ve established a track record and years of experience under your belt. You will have to have the advanced scientific knowledge we outlined above; it will not be optional if you want to be a master. At the very least, you should have a Masters Degree, but ideally, a PhD.

How much you can make

Master extractors typically earn upwards of $100,000 per year. If you really make a name for yourself, you can command as much as $180,000 per year or more. Make yourself invaluable to your company and will continue to earn in the industry.

Grow Master

A grow master is similar to a master extractor in terms of importance and responsibility, but the areas of management vary a bit.

What you’ll do

You’ll be primarily responsible for overseeing the cultivation of the plants, and making sure your staff grows them properly from seed to harvest. In addition, you’ll also manage tasks such running warehouses, grow lights maintenance, as well as managing cloning, transplanting, feeding, and trimming staff. You’ll train supervisors, keep records, oversee expenses, and hire/fire employees. Lastly, you may need to deal with compliance and inspections.

Experience you’ll need

This is one in which you typically work your way up from an entry level position. That said, a botany background and advanced degree is becoming increasingly common, and will help your earning power.

How much you can make

This is one of the highest paid positions in the industry. If you get an opportunity to be a master grower, you can make anywhere from $80,000 to $150,000. What’s cool about this is that you’ll typically need a botanist’s background, but your salary will considerably exceed that of a botanist in a more traditional field. Earn a reputation for managing top quality grows, and your earning power will expand accordingly.

Junior Grower

A junior grower in training works directly under the guidance and supervision of the master grower. If you’re thinking about getting into the growing side of the business, this is a great place to start.

What you’ll do

In short, you’ll be responsible for successfully growing the plants on a day to day basis. Your tasks will include planting, cloning, feeding, and proper watering. You’ll receive feedback and direction from the master grower, but it will be up to you to make sure the plants are grown and taken care of to the best of your ability. The better you are at doing this, the less supervision you’ll need, and you’ll advance that much more quickly.

Experience you’ll need

This is a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor. You could get experience as a budtender, make contacts, and switch over to the growing side of things once you get a chance to prove yourself. This is also one of those unique situations in which black market experience can also give you a chance to show what you can do.

How much you can make

If you land a role as a junior grower, you can expect to earn in the range of $30,000 to $70,000 a year. You’ll earn towards the high end when you take on more responsibility, and start making your way towards master grower.

Edibles Chef

Love to cook? Becoming an edibles chef is a unique opportunity to consider. You can combine your love of food art, chemistry, cannabis, and small business all into one creation.

What you’ll do

If you want to be a successful edibles chef, you’ll need to do more than cook and bake well. You’ll have to master infusing THC into food, and doing so in quantities that are legal, safe, and fun. Also, don’t forget, you’ll need to make your edibles tasty. You have to keep that weed taste at a minimum, or better yet, eliminate it entirely.

Cannabis chefs create things like candies and cookies, as well as cannabis-infused oils and butter. The more creative you are, the better. Most cannabis chefs create multi-course dinners, turning the experience into an overall event, acting as host and MC. You can also create income streams in writing or creating videos about cannabis recipes and cooking techniques, working as a private chef, and catering special weed-themed fests. Of course, all of this is depending on what your state’s cannabis laws permit, so do your research.

Experience you’ll need

The best way to break into this field is to work for another edibles chef. While culinary schools and training can certainly help, it’s not a deal breaker. Get to know the edibles chefs in your area, demonstrate how you can help, and learn on the job.

How much you can make

Most edibles chefs earn $40,000 to $50,000 a year or more. Once you get established and create multiple income streams, you can earn $80,000 a year or more.

Packaging/Delivery Services

If you want to get into the packaging and delivery end of things, drivers who work for these companies typically assist the extractors. In some cases, drivers see a market need and go on to start their own companies. If you have a flair for small business ownership, and want to carve out a unique niche, this may be for you.

What you’ll do

You’ll package the products and deliver them to the area dispensaries in the state. 

Experience you’ll need

To qualify for this position, you must be 21 or over, have a valid driver’s license, valid vehicle registration, auto insurance, and pass a background check. If you’re running your own shop, you’ll need to know how to run a business as well, mastering all of the related issues that come with that.

How much you’ll make

The hourly wage usually ranges around $13 to $21, with full-time positions paying around $25,000 to $45,000 a year. Of course, if you start your own company in this space, you’ll bump your earnings into a whole other league.

Cannabis Consultant

Consulting is generally a high-paying career path, and if you can pull off carving out a space for yourself in cannabis, you’ll be in a great position.

What you’ll do

If you become a cannabis consultant, you’ll typically help businesses with their various business needs. You might help companies find acceptable locations, get the licenses they need, and advise them on other matters so that they avoid fines or other headaches. Additionally, you might help business owners with bookkeeping or taxes, or simply helping businesses navigate the illegality of cannabis that still exists federally.

Experience you’ll need

Needless to say, it helps if you have a background in professional services, whether it’s law, accounting, or finance, and you can bring that to the table in your consulting practice.

What you can make

If you become a successful cannabis consultant, you can easily earn into the six figures annually. The trick is getting clients, and having a unique value proposition to offer them.

Professional Services

Do you have a background in professional services? If so, you might be pleasantly surprised to find that you can transfer those skills to the cannabis industry. Since the cannabis industry is still so young, it’s much more open to mid and late career professionals jumping in from other industries. This is a very unique benefit that other industries typically do not offer.

What you’ll do

Assuming you’re willing to learn the cannabis business, including its history and the complicated web of laws and regulations that exist, you can use your current background to find a great niche, make a lateral move, and advance quickly.

Experience you’ll need

What’s your background? If you’re an attorney, a CPA, a marketing director, or an IT professional, the industry can use your skills. This is an area in which participating in trade groups will pay huge dividends. Network and get to know the players. Learn the ins and outs of the legal weed business, show decision makers what your background is. Demonstrate how you can transfer those skills to cannabis.

How much you can make

The cannabis industry is catching up its professional services salaries to those of more established industries. That said, you can still find the same six figure salaries that you will find in professional services elsewhere. This is especially true if you work for an established company.

Bottom Line

The long and short of it is, if you want to find a place for yourself working in weed, you can find one. Even if you find that you have to take a temporary pay cut, and work at a more junior position, in order to learn the ropes, you’ll find it’s worth it. You’ll gain experience, make contacts, and find bigger and better opportunities quickly. Whether you prefer to work on the business to business side, or prefer a consumer facing retail business, there’s a place for you. Cannabis is going to continue to expand in ways we can’t even anticipate, for years to come. So will the jobs, and how much money you can make in weed.