The Culturalist

Dear Culturalist: Should I Take a Job in the Green Rush?

By Onya Ganja

Dear Culturalist: Should I Take a Job in the Green Rush?
I love cannabis, and I need a job, but I worry about pursuing a job at a dispensary or similar cannabis workplace. What are the real risks of working in the cannabis industry and do you think it will look bad on my resume?

When you say you need a job, I’m going to go ahead and assume you mean you currently don’t have one. So, maybe you should just take what you can get, but yes, with cannabis comes risk. The real risks of working in the cannabis industry are twofold. What makes it such an exciting industry to work in is also what makes it risky. The industry is shaky in general because it is growing up and things are changing left and right. I don’t care if you are a social scientist, politician or god—no one can predict with certainty what will happen next in this industry.

Can you feel the excitement? Do you like it? Do you love cannabis so much that you would volunteer for any non-paying gig that involves it? If your answer is ‘hell no’ to all of the above, you should probably find your true passion because cannabis doesn’t seem to be it. How much you can and want to risk is your own goddamn business, but personally, I am convinced humans are not meant to spend their days doing shit they don’t love… unless, of course, they or their families are going to starve or freeze to death in the foreseeable future.

Proceeding with the assumption that you are indeed jobless, you need to stop worrying about what the word cannabis will look like on resume. When it comes to whether or not a cannabis job will look bad on your resume well, um, you didn’t graduate from Hogwarts, there is no Ministry of Magic and therefore your resume isn’t some enchanted document that you can’t change whenever you fancy. If you work a cannabis job and the skills aren’t transferable to a regular non-cannabis job, or if you’re like me and enjoy flopping back and forth from cannabis jobs to government positions, well, you print copies of your resume from which you’ve removed the useless information.

Strange gap on your resume? All you need is a legitimate reason why you didn’t work for a period of time or get some straight job you can put on your resume. Flash to you in an interview... “Oh, I was working part-time so I could pursue my love of ballet and abstract sculpture. It didn’t pan out, but I’m glad I wrecked my feet and followed my dreams. For now, I know my real goal is to have a boring regular job at your company.” Or something along those lines.

Back to the topic of risky business, sans Tom Cruise. If you look at the risks associated with an illegal cannabis-related activity, a relative risk will apply to the almost-legal equivalent. For example, growing weed or working for a medical cannabis producer will probably result in more financial gain but also more risk, than say, helping medical patients choose a cannabis strain at a dispensary with a strict application process. You should also consider some other things, such as; do you live in an area where edible and extract possession is punished more harshly than flower in your pocket? Yes? Then maybe don’t apply to be an edible delivery person at a producer that has dogs tied up all around their secret location in the middle of nowhere—unless you are super curious about what the inside of a cell looks like.

Do I think you should pursue a career in the cannabis industry if you aren’t willing to take risks? Probably not, right now, regardless of where you reside. Don’t get me wrong, location does matter, and there will certainly be a different level of risk involved in being employed in California and Vancouver (B.C.) than in states where cannabis is still prohibited or in communities where the police continue to prosecute regardless of legalization.

The tricky part with location advice is, sure, change is slower than stoner sloth, but it can also occur overnight. Let’s take Vancouver for example. A lot of people in the cannabis industry I’m sure feel fairly safe out there, but with legalization looming over Canada, the climate could suddenly change. I would not be even slightly surprised if I woke up to reports of every almost-legal company being shut down in Canada. For it is possible legalization in Canada will look similar to the end of alcohol prohibition—meaning the government will have total control of the sales and distribution, no competitors allowed. Maybe the law enforcers don’t overly care about dispensaries operating now, but do you think the government is going to allow it when those dispensaries are their direct competition? Ya right. What I’m trying to say about the industry is that the risks today are not what they will be tomorrow, and kick-backs in social movements are extremely common, if not inevitable.

Additionally, and honestly, I don’t care where you live because until full cannabis legalization happens in North America, the risk could always be jail time at most and at the very least an unstable job. There have been times, including now, where I was naively prepared for maybe going to jail—for being open about cannabis. I told myself I’d get a lot of writing done and maybe take up Tai Chi. Think I’ve lost it? I think if you can’t even kid yourself about being ready to do time for this plant, well, you don’t care enough about cannabis to be a real benefit to the industry. Unless of course you have a truly astounding amount of knowledge. Or, really, really want to spend your days picking stellar kush out of glass jars with chopsticks while a stream of whiney humans alternate between asking for your advice and pretending they know everything.

So let’s say you’ve already been volunteering in the cannabis industry, you know you love it, and it is your dream job, and you are aware of the legality of both cannabis and the business you want to work for in your area. Now what I mean about the bit about the business is things like, are they paying taxes? As far as I know, any business that doesn’t pay taxes is super illegal.

Personally, I chose to volunteer my time in the cannabis industry and work regular jobs until the industry was at the point where employers could offer me things like a salary with benefits. I don’t regret my decision to go this route, even when I smoke this one sativa strain that makes me question everything! Also, maybe the cannabis industry doesn’t even want you. Ever think of that? Not to take your confidence down a notch, but maybe you should just apply to cannabis jobs. You can always say “no” if you get one and then realize you live in a very conservative state, and the place wanting to hire you doesn’t pay taxes, let alone abide by federal law.

Final thought: Like any great love, I think cannabis is worth taking all kinds of risks for, but I’m also acutely aware of the fact that there is a lot of it in prison. It is probably low quality stuff, improperly flushed and brought inside with the help of some poor persons’ orifices.

Photo credit: Flickr/Beverly Yuen Thompson

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