While the cannabis industry is unique in many ways (e.g., selling Schedule 1 drugs), it also bears many similarities to traditional manufacturing businesses that deal in consumer packaged goods (CPGs). For cannabis employers looking to hire experienced workers, however, the talent pool is much shallower than it is in other industries.
Experienced cultivation managers and extraction experts are just a few examples of cannabis jobs for which qualified candidates have been in short supply for years. As the industry expands and companies scale up across the United States, filling operational gaps from the lowest levels to the C-suite becomes increasingly urgent. Luckily for job candidates, companies are now offering salaries and benefit packages that are on par with — or better than — those in traditional industries.
In 2021, cannabis salaries for senior executives rose by an average of 10 percent, often with expanded retirement packages and benefits, according to Liesl Bernard, chief executive officer and founder of CannabizTeam, a San Diego-based cannabis staffing agency that collects information about hiring trends. “It is definitely an employee’s market right now,” Bernard said, adding that most of her clients spend $25,000 to $50,000 per year to onboard and train a new employee, depending on the position.
Higher-level jobs in cultivation, extraction, and retail can pay upwards of $150,000 per year, according to cannabis recruiting firm Vangst. A vice president of retail operations, for example, can earn as much as $180,000 per year, while lower-level workers like budtenders and trimmers earn wages ranging between $12 and $17 per hour, depending on the state.
Cannabis jobs salary ranges
CannabizTeam produces an annual salary guide outlining hiring trends in the industry, the top ten states for cannabis jobs, and national salary ranges for over sixty of the most prevalent cannabis positions in the U.S. Some key takeaways from the CannabizTeam 2022 Cannabis Salary Guide include:
- The industry is experiencing 28-percent annual growth, and annual sales have reached $35 billion.
- By 2024, there will be 500,000 full-time jobs.
- The U.S. industry will add more than 100,000 new jobs this year.
- Cannabis salaries rose 4 percent on average in 2021, with compensation for senior executives rising as much as 10 percent.
With a 4-percent rise in average salaries, the cannabis industry is right on track with other businesses in the U.S. The Conference Board, a membership and research organization for large businesses, conducted a salary survey from November 8 to November 19, 2021, with responses from 240 U.S. employers (more than half of which employ more than 10,000 workers). It reported that salary increase budgets for 2022 will be 3.9 percent, the highest growth rate since 2008.
Over the past year, Bernard’s team has placed multiple executives with salaries in the $400,000 to $500,000 range, meaning cannabis salaries in the C-suite finally are closing the gap with other, more established industries. “I still don’t know if we’re quite there yet, but a lot of people are taking either a lateral move or jumping into the cannabis industry with the potential for huge upside in the future,” Bernard said. For companies expanding and moving into new markets, experienced money managers are worth their weight in gold. “A lot of companies are now investing in more sophisticated, strategic CFOs because they can’t get away with just having a bookkeeper.”
Another important consideration for companies in the cannabis industry is finding employees who are going to stick around and grow with the company. In a study conducted in 2017, Employee Benefit News reported it costs employers 33 percent of a worker’s annual salary to hire a replacement if that worker leaves, and the cost of that turnover is $15,000 per person.
CannabizTeam estimates the cost of replacing a cannabis employee in the first year is even higher, at about 70 to 100 percent of the replaced employee’s base salary. “But in our experience, the overall economic and non-economic costs to the employer are far greater than that when you factor in wasted time and negative impacts on morale and culture,” said Bernard.
The bottom line for cannabis companies looking to add employees this year? Competitive salaries and benefits are a must in the current environment, and it pays to find employees who buy into the company’s long-term vision and goals.