Legal cannabis is America’s fastest-growing industry, with more than 321,000 jobs across dozens of states. If you’re curious about starting a cannabis career—or just want a job with decent pay and cool co-workers—budtending is an excellent way to learn the trade.
Dispensaries in Eastern states are booming, and that means they’re hiring.
Leafly’s 2021 Cannabis Jobs Report found 321,000 full-time jobs in America’s legal cannabis industry. That report was published in Feb. 2021, and since then tens of thousands of jobs have been created in booming states like Michigan, Massachusetts, Missouri, Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
It’s worth noting that nearly all of those states are east of the Mississippi River. America’s cannabis boom began in the West, but today’s hiring boom is happening in the East.
Here’s a look at budtending by the numbers.
This varies from state to state and city to city. But wages generally start in the $13 to $16 per hour range, and rise to the $18 to $20 per hour range.
The cannabis hiring company Vangst reports that nearly 80% of cannabis companies now offer paid time off to their employees, while 70% offer health insurance benefits (with most including dental and vision).
If you’re looking to make $50 an hour, budtending isn’t your gig. But there are few better jobs to use as a stepping-stone into a career in America’s fastest-growing industry.
Experienced budtenders are going to be in high demand in New York and New Jersey when those states open their adult-use stores next year.
As a budtender you’re gaining valuable experience on the front lines, learning what customers care about in terms of product modalities and quality, experiencing the rhythm of the retail day and week, spotting trends, gaining an understanding of distribution channels, and sharing your passion with customers who are genuinely excited to be shopping at your store.
Top budtenders typically rise to become assistant managers, retail managers, or product buyers, but really there’s no limit. As a budtender you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the entire industry, and from there you can pursue your passion—whether it’s growing, product development, manufacturing, or any one of a hundred different roles in the industry.
There’s also this tried-and-true strategy: Budtenders who gain experience in a mature retail market like Colorado, Washington, California, or Oregon, may find their knowledge and skills highly valued by startup cannabis retailers in newly legal states like Illinois, New York, and New Jersey.
The US cannabis industry now supports 321,000 full-time jobs
Who’s hiring now?
Nearly every cannabis company is hiring. This is an industry that sees double-digit growth every single year. But right now there are a number of emerging states that are hiring at blinding speed.
- Florida: Medical sales just keep on growing, up 30% since the start of the year.
- Illinois: This adult-use state is just getting started. More stores are on their way, and sales are up 45% since January.
- Maine: After a long wait to open retail stores, Mainers (and visitors) are now embracing legal sales in a big way. Sales have quadrupled since January.
- Michigan: Total cannabis sales are up nearly 60% from the start of 2021.
- Missouri: Sales in this new medical state doubled between January and July of this year.
- New Jersey: The state is about to license up to 15 more medical dispensaries, and is expected to start full adult-use sales in 2022. Pro tip: Check out opportunities at a New Jersey Cannabis Career Fair on Nov. 17 at Stockton University in Galloway.
- New York: State regulators just announced that medical dispensaries can now sell cannabis flower, which could set off a boom in sales. That’s even before adult-use sales kick off in later 2022. Budtenders will be needed.
- Ohio: This medical state is expected to triple the number of licensed dispensaries in 2022. That means a lot of budtender hiring.
- Pennsylvania: The Keystone State doubled its medical sales in 2020. Adult-use legalization is expected soon, and that means experience gained now will be valuable to rec store hiring managers down the road.