Is It Time To Quit Your Job And Go Work In Weed?

If you’re looking for a big career change and a little adventure, the shiny, new cannabis industry is probably looking pretty good right now. A drug that was once taboo is now fuelling billions in (legal!) business and being studied at colleges and universities across the country with courses on cultivation, law, production management, and a slew of other areas. Canada can expect about 150,000 new weed-related jobs in the coming few years, according to a study from Deloitte, and some come with hefty salaries to match. For example, Calgary-based staffing firm Cannabis At Work found that a marketing manager, senior accountant or human resources manager in the field can expect to make upwards of $89,000 a year.
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“Never in our lifetime are we going to see an industry emerge in this way,” says Alison Gordon, CEO of 48North, a licensed producer that’s focusing on women’s health and wellness. “It doesn’t happen very often and it will unlikely happen again.”
Clearly there’s plenty of opportunity, but is the cannabis biz right for you? Refinery29 spoke to four women who’ve made major career pivots and are now navigating the ever-changing pot market with intellect, intuition, and a desire to change the perceptions of the plant. Here’s what they said you need to know before you quit your day job.
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Photo Courtesy of Alison Gordon. Designed by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.
Alison Gordon

What I do: I’m the CEO of 48North, which makes me the first female CEO of a public cannabis company in the world. I’m also on the board of directors at the Cannabis Council of Canada, so I play a role in the strategy and direction of the industry as a whole.

Why I made the jump: I’ve been a recreational cannabis user for a long time. In 2008, a close family member was diagnosed with stage-four ovarian cancer. Her doctor recommended trying medical cannabis. I didn’t realize Canada had a medical cannabis program, so I studied the industry. I have a background in strategy, marketing, and communications, and was the co-founder of the charity Rethink Breast Cancer. What excited me about starting Rethink was to engage an audience that had never been engaged before — young women — and not be about pink ribbons and teddy bears. I saw that same opportunity in the cannabis space: to change the face of cannabis.

You could do it, too, if: You’re authentic. I’m really a no-bullshit person. I think that helps on all levels of the business. Some of the biggest cannabis company CEOs are on the record as saying they’ve never, ever smoked cannabis. That’d be like the CEO of Apple saying he’s never used an iPhone.

But you might want to reconsider if: You really love structure, order, and consistency.

One last thing you need to know: My advice is that prospective job-hunters do their homework. Companies may say that they have this or that license in order to be compliant with Health Canada regulations or make a job sound really great, but make sure you've done your research and asked around before you sign any paperwork.
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Photo Courtesy of Natasaha Raey. Designed by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.
Natasha Raey

What I do: I was just hired as the vice president of health and wellness at Aleafia, a licensed producer that runs 22 medical cannabis clinics across Canada — I am their first female executive. I’ve also been investing in cannabis stocks since 2013.

Why I made the jump: People have seen cannabis as this really bad drug that leads to terrible things, and I saw it differently. I was a senior manager in primary health care for 10 years. When you look at wellness, people are starting to realize that cannabis can help with both sleep and sex, which are the only two things I use it for.

You could do it, too, if: You want to make money! A large part of female empowerment is financial. Having our own money, equity in companies, and access to capital — these are all a large part about why I love the cannabis industry so much. I bought my first Birkin thanks to cannabis stocks!

But you might want to reconsider if: You don’t respect the history of this industry and the decades of work that risk-takers were doing before you came along.

One last thing you need to know: Don’t be afraid to approach people. Most jobs are being created as we speak. A lot of the time, employers don’t have a sense of what they want to hire someone for, but if they know you and what you excel at, very often a position could be created for you.
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Photo Courtesy of Auntenetta Gomez. Designed by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.
Antuanette Gomez

What I do: I was studying holistic nutrition when I got into cannabis six years ago. Now I’m the CEO and founder of Pleasure Peaks, a cannabis brand for women’s sexual health that offers lubrication and suppositories.

Why I made the jump: When I was interning at a chronic pain clinic, I was looking up alternative therapies and found out how cannabis can be used as a treatment. I ended up teaching patients how to cook with cannabis. I started making cannabis products, like lotions and tinctures for women who suffered from endometriosis and other pain issues, in 2013.

You could do it, too, if: You are incredibly adaptable. New laws are coming almost every day, and they’re just as confusing to the general public as they are to cannabis business owners.

But you might want to reconsider if: You plan to grow cannabis but don’t have a lot of cash. Growing takes a minimum of $4 million before you even put in your application to become a licensed producer.

One last thing you need to know: We need women working in cannabis in all levels of the industry if we want diverse products and applications. I find that there is tremendous value in having a diverse team.
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Anja Charbonneau

What I do: I am the founder of Broccoli, a magazine made by an all-women team that looks at cannabis from an art, culture, and fashion perspective. Before that, I was the creative director of Kinfolk.

Why I made the jump: I’m from Kamloops, B.C., but now I live in Portland. Cannabis has been recreationally legal here in Oregon a little over three years. I got to see the legal industry evolve, and at the same time saw creative brands pop up and beautiful retail spaces, so it was clear there was just something happening in the community. One thing that’s fun and refreshing about working with cannabis is that not much has been done on the creative front yet. There’s a whole playground to work within, and ideas that would have felt stale in another industry are fresh and fun and new.

You could do it, too, if: You’re very curious and open-minded. At Broccoli, we’re sharing a lot of different perspectives, so we’re not just after one mission or one message.

But you might want to reconsider if: You don’t like surprises. The cannabis industry is full of twists and turns, with new policies, brands, research, and ideas popping up every day, and it will require constant flexibility.

One last thing you need to know: Find people who have the same intentions as you, because they will help you, they will open doors for you, and you can do the same for them. That will feel like you’re part of a real community.
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