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As COVID Limits Options, College Kids Flock to Pot Jobs


Despite economic woes across the U.S., the cannabis industry is one sector where jobs are on the rise.


“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s a question every child is asked as they rapidly work their way towards adulthood. Some of the most popular answers are practically timeless, with generations of kids always sharing plans to become astronauts, ballet dancers, or firefighters. Up until recently, however, an enterprising young boy or girl saying they’d like to work with cannabis when they get older was not an answer most adults would receive with enthusiasm.

Even now, at the precipice of a seismic shift in public perception, support for the legitimacy of cannabis careers is still in its earliest days. Regardless, the onset of the COVID pandemic has expedited a willingness for younger career-seekers to jump into business with legal weed.

Specifically, there are an abundance of would-be college students currently enduring what can generously be described as “COVID gap years” and thus eager for employment.

As reported by Leafly, a poll conducted by College Reaction and Axios in August of this year found that “22% of college students said they won’t be enrolling this fall semester… That gap semester has left as many as four million college-age adults looking for work. In looking for a Plan B, some students are turning to the cannabis industry.”

In an industry that runs the gamut in terms of professions available — craft farmers, delivery drivers, and Snoop Dogg all “work in cannabis” so to speak — some individuals are using their delay from attending college to instead take classes of a different sort.

Natalie Darves, Oaksterdam’s dean of faculty, confirmed to Leafly that virtual cannabis training offered by the institution is seeing record attendance from individuals also pursuing a traditional degree. Additionally, recruiter James Yagielo, CEO of Miami’s Hempstaff, told the outlet that his company is seeing a spike in applications from “young adults in the middle of their degrees.”

Far from being a longshot back-up plan for young professionals currently unable to seek other work, cannabis is currently proving itself to be an industry capable of enduring even the cruelest blows.

Despite the fact that the plant remains illegal at the federal level, it’s classification across cities and states at the onset of the COVID pandemic as “essential” has been nothing short of a godsend for those with a stake in the game.

“Cannabis is turning out to be the one thing the coronavirus can’t destroy,” noted Politico this spring. “Marijuana sales are booming, with some states seeing 20 percent spikes in sales as anxious Americans prepare to be hunkered down in their homes potentially for months.”

Fast-forward to October and the numbers continue to suggest that cannabis is one of the rare industries that might actually deserve to be deemed “recession-proof.” On September 17, Marijuana Business Daily reported that the states of Colorado, Illinois, Ohio had all set records for monthly marijuana sales over the summer.

To date, every American has thus far been provided only with a stimulus check for $1200 as a means of fiscally surviving COVID. Given the paltry amount, coupled with the fact that said checks were largely issued back in April, it’s fair to assume that, at this point, people are choosing to spend some of the little money they have on legal cannabis. When one compares this reality to the one currently facing restaurants or live entertainment venues, it’s pretty easy to see why young folks are pivoting to pursue professions in pot.

And the best part? Within the auspices of cannabis, the possibilities are practically limitless.

For those who fancy technology, there are cutting-edge vaporizer companies, numerous companies working to perfect various aspects of the manufacturing process, and companies like METRC, the seed-to-sale software California now employs as its official tracking program for the industry.

Another facet of the industry seeing expanded growth is retail, where fresh budtenders are constantly being trained as more and more new dispensaries get up and running. While some may worry their lack of formal cannabis knowledge may disqualify them from such positions, Hempstaff’s Yagielo told Leafly that his company is happy to teach those who want to learn.

“We actually do training for that, for people who don’t know much about cannabis or even do. We teach them everything they need to know to be a dispensary agent and properly give out medical marijuana to the patient [to treat] their ailment. We’ve seen a lot more college kids come into that in the last year, which was interesting.”

Though some roadblocks — namely eligibility for federal student aid, the possibility of a worker permit being required, and the difference in local and state law across the country — firmly remain in place, it’s evident that for those who so desire, working with weed need no longer remain simply a pipe dream.

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