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Gwynne Ann Unruh is a former award winning reporter at the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

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Job security went out the window with COVID-19 for many, except for those lucky enough to have an essential job or who were already working from home. While the labor market is tightening up in many areas, the cannabis industry is just getting started. If you are in the market for a new job, consider entering the cannabis job market in New Mexico, where business is booming and many companies are hiring. If the New Mexico Legislature finally legalizes recreational cannabis this session, an estimated 11,000 new jobs will be created in the industry in New Mexico. Not to mention bringing in an estimated 100 million dollars a year in tax revenue from the industry.

As of early 2020 over 243,700 Americans were employed in the legal cannabis industry, with 33,700 jobs added in 2019—according to Leafly, which just released its fourth annual cannabis industry jobs report. That makes the cannabis industry the fastest-growing job sector in the country. In 2018 64,389 new positions were added to recreational and medicinal areas combined.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics considers the cannabis industry illegal and does not maintain a database. In all, 34 states have legalized medical cannabis; and 11 states plus Washington, D.C. have legalized cannabis for adult use. As a wider variety of cannabis products becomes available, they are bringing more customers into the market. Meanwhile, states that legalized cannabis show booming industry growth.

There are a variety of jobs available in the cannabis industry, with many new dispensaries being added regularly around New Mexico. There are several schools in the state where you can study and gain needed skills, however many producers and their dispensaries provide on-the-job training. Internships are also available. 

The Paper. made several calls to dispensaries to check in on hiring, sales and the possibility of legalization. Job opportunities in the cannabis industry include “budtender” at dispensaries, harvester, trimmers, delivery driver, packers, dispensary managers, product tester and reviewer (nice job!), security guards, sales representatives and growers. Depending on the size of the producer, there may be upper management positions available.

Greenleaf’s manager Fred Tidey said they have various openings periodically in their retail side and growing operations. “As an essential [business], the pandemic brought in more patients, and we’ve  been busy. Depending on what any new law says, the company is poised to jump on the recreational once it does pass and gear up for sales. If it does pass this year, it will probably take about a year to go into effect, so we would be looking at starting your sales sometime in 2022.”

Trista Mace in HR with Grassroots RX dispensary said she hires by looking through résumés dropped off at the dispensaries. “Most people don’t bring in a résumé or bring one back when we request it. If people are wanting to get into the industry, that might be something to suggest to them. Actually, have a written resume or that’s not very helpful to us.” Their employees’ ages range from 21 to 61, with an average age of 30 to 35.

Mace said sales to out-of-state medical cannabis card-holding patients has increased their business by 8 to 10 percent. “It’s been really nice for those patients to be able to get their medicine here during Thanksgiving, Christmas and any holiday season they’re traveling.” She said the company would have to decide what would be in its best interest if the state did not allow medical and recreational cannabis in the same facilities.

So, dust off or create a résumé and go job hunting in this essential job market. And keep your fingers crossed that the legislature will do what 75 percent of New Mexico wants and legalize recreational cannabis this session.

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