Expert Advice: Landing a Job in Nevada’s Cannabis Industry

Cannabis worker

Budtender Fight Club founder and industry expert James Sturtsman gives advice in on how to land a cannabis job

Cannabis is a booming industry in Las Vegas, let alone Nevada which brought in close to $45 million in sales last year.

Since pandemic restrictions have been lifted across Nevada, there’s also been a higher demand for more workers across a variety of positions including budtenders, trimmers, cultivation technicians.

“Now the tourists are coming back to Las Vegas, it is just an upward trajectory to the cannabis industry in the state of Nevada — and also nationally too as well,” said industry expert Jason Sturstsman.

Sturtsman has owned numerous cannabis businesses in Nevada and California, and operates Budtender Fight Club as an educational program to get people certified to work in the cannabis industry and learn more about the different kinds of job opportunities avialable. 

Among some of the common jobs in the industry include:

  • Budtenders: Guide customers with product selection, handle the register, process IDs
  • Bud trimmers: Responsible for handling plants, trimming leaves, and removing buds.
  • Grow technicians: Support the cultivation process. 
  • Harvest Collection: Keep warehouses organized, packaging products, catalogue strains

Pay can vary for jobs and can range from pay depending on the level of experience needed. While certain jobs may not pay as much as you think, others may pay close to six figures.

No matter the job people may be looking for in the industry, there are plenty of things to consider before and during the hiring process. 

We talked with Sturtsman to learn about how land a cannabis job, and what you can expect about the industry.

What’s the situation like for people trying to get hired in the cannabis industry right now?

The demand for workers is higher, but it is very competitive to get a job in the cannabis industry.

There’s a lot of people who want to work in the cannabis industry. There’s people who are willing to take a pay cut just to work in the cannabis industry. The demand is high. Certain positions are more coveted than others.

Everybody wants to be a budtender. A lot of dispensaries typically find a fantastic person who’s extremely knowledgeable and they’ll put them right at being a budtender. But most of the time, they’re starting them at these entry-level positions before they move them up to those positions.

How can applicants typically prepare themselves for a job in the cannabis industry?

The number one way to get a job in the cannabis industry is networking⁠—networking with people who are working in the industry. That is how the majority of the hiring is done in the industry, but you still have to show up [to the interview]. 

You got to network and you got to educate yourself. When I say network, you got to show up to Budtender Fight Club, you got to show up to Las Vegas NORML, show up to any type of cannabis meeting, any kind of cannabis group that’s meeting potentially. 

Just network with people, and talk to people, and introduce yourself to people and that’s what’s going to get you hired along with knowing your stuff because these businesses are multi-billion dollar businesses that licenses can be worth a million dollars. It is important to me as a business owner that you protect my license, so you have to know what the rules are. If you violate the rules, that license will not be there and your job will not be there either. 

You still have to be able to answer and present yourself well and your understanding of cannabis when you are being interviewed.

You typically get a “how do you handle a difficult situation question,” and then very broad-based questions regarding your experience with cannabis. And they may get very specific with it as well. It just depends on the interviewer.

Is there anything you should avoid saying or doing during an interview?

You should assume the person interviewing you is pretty straight laced and pretty vanilla and that’s a safe assumption on your part.

Overdressing is always going to be better than underdressing for that interview, especially being very competitive. I mean some of the things I’ve heard that have really turned me off to somebody include: “Hey how much of a discount do I get? Can I give a discount to my friend? I used to sell weed on the side. This will be great because I used to sell weed.”

And they’ll even tell me they’re still selling cannabis. That’s another terrible thing to say because then you’re thinking “Oh this guy is going to get in trouble. He’s going to try to resell our products.”

That will be something that will stop you from getting hired. You’ll also get people who say, “Do I get a break so I can smoke? When I’m working do I get free cannabis, is it okay if I consume before I get to work?

All of those things are definitely red flags.

What are some things people may not realize about the industry?

Everybody’s high at work.[Also] there’s people with medical marijuana cards. I have a medical marijuana card, so that means I use cannabis to help my particular thing back pain to help. I consume cannabis at night.

Maybe that [people] are making tons of money in the cannabis industry. If you show up at the time, if you show up consistently, and you’re willing to be polite and kind, and listen to your supervisor and manager, you can quickly move up in the cannabis industry. I’ve known many people who started out for $12-15 hour positions and then they are quickly moving into management, they’re moving into apprenticing for 3-6 months, and then working a $70-80,000 position doing an extraction.

What is the typical pay for cannabis workers?

Anybody entry-level: $12-15 an hour (trimmers, cultivation technicians, packaging, facility maintenance). If you’re lucky, and you get a budtending position, then you’re getting tips and then it comes to low 20s per hour. 

Some companies what they’ll do is they pull the [budtender] tips. The budtenders, get more tips than a packager does or security guard, but [they]are still getting extra tips. In some dispensaries, all of the tips go to the budtenders.

Going on up from there it moves into six figures (managing roles, bookkeeping, cannabis buying). It all depends, on the type of position. But the broader base of employees is at that $12-15 an hour, and as you get to the top of the pyramid

What are some possible job opportunities that may be available in the near future?

Consumption lounges–that is a huge opportunity for someone to potentially have a business in the cannabis industry. Either limited licenses or a select few of them are going to dispensaries.

Half of those are social equity applicants at reduced licensing as well. They haven’t defined a social equity applicant just yet, but the anticipation or the idea that I have personally believe it to be black, Hispanic, women-owned businesses. Those three categories I think will definitely be social equity applicants. I’m not sure if they’re going to be adding anything beyond those three, but they get extra points and they get reduced fees to open these lounges. 

These consumption lounges have the ability to be making infused [edible] products there. So somebody has to be a specialist in making infused products. You need a lot of cooks. You’re going to have an individual that comes and serves you, not unlike a bartender.

A person that is probably going to be making food. You’re probably going to have security. And then top of that, let’s talk about the other related businesses you can create around a consumption lounge. Just like a promoter of a regular bar, you are going to be allowed events.You can be doing cannabis comedy, cannabis yoga, cannabis painting… there will be a person there even educating the consumers there. 

You can follow Budtender Fight Club on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram for future events.

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