As in all businesses, the customer is key, as Neil Demers, the CEO of high-end cannabis company and brand Diego Pellicer, pointed out in an interview with Inverse. вЂњIn my personal opinion, I have not seen that many good apps,вЂќ he says, referring to programs that make the experience of buying weed seamless and convenient. As going to a dispensary is still uncomfortable for some people, app developers could play a crucial role in shaping the American weed industry going forward.
(And not end up in jail.)
The burgeoning field, which boasts a median salary of about $57,000, requires experts from all walks of life. The fact that the industry is so young means that thereвЂ™s plenty of room for beginners to move up. While there will always be bud to tend and plants to water, the cannabis industryвЂ™s legitimacy has opened up thousands of what industry insiders call вЂњancillaryвЂќ jobs вЂ” those that support the production and sale of weed-related businesses. But which of these can make us rich? To find out, Inverse interviewed a trio of successful cannabis entrepreneurs. Here are the career paths they suggest the modern, profit-chasing weed dealer should consider.
As marijuana extracts like waxes and shatters become more popular вЂ” and demand will for sure grow as new medical applications are discovered вЂ” anyone trying to run a scientific, pharmaceutical-grade extraction business will need experts in cannabis oil extraction, says Peterson. This isnвЂ™t an easy process: It involves using either liquified carbon dioxide or volatile petroleum solvents such as butane, hexane, or propane, which can explode if handled improperly. There arenвЂ™t a lot of people with this scientific expertise, Peterson says, so business owners will probably be willing to pay up for specialists.
While owning your own business can be prohibitively expensive (more on that later), thereвЂ™s plenty of money to be made in managing someone elseвЂ™s business. In an interview with Inverse, Derek Peterson, the CEO of Terra Tech, the first publicly traded cannabis company in the United States, says that big business owners are in need of people who can organize staff and set schedules. While these may not seem like skills that could earn you a lot of money, Peterson says thereвЂ™s a вЂњpremiumвЂќ on people with retail experience right now because вЂњthere isnвЂ™t a talent poolвЂќ. ThatвЂ™s not the only reason theyвЂ™re willing to pay up: Cannabis professionals want to вЂњshow face to other industries,вЂќ Peterson says, explaining that offering competitive salaries ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 gives the entire cannabis industry a sense of legitimacy.
TheyвЂ™re not, however, immune to hackers, as a recent attack on MJ Freeway revealed. In fact, marijuana-focused cybersecurity is a growing sub-industry that is looking for experts.
The era of shady, low-profit, back-alley weed dealing is over: As marijuana legalization is cautiously rolled out across America, weed professionals are laying the groundwork for a sprawling and legitimate cannabis industry. But it needs humans to work. Right now, marijuana sales are poised to top $20.2 billion by 2020, and there are about 120,000 legal jobs that already exist in the industry. That number is only going to grow as legal cannabis gains traction.
Modern industries canвЂ™t survive without the internet and a smartphone, and cannabis is no exception. Companies like MJ Freeway and Biotrack THC вЂ” which produce licensing software for businesses to process their marijuana sales вЂ” are indispensable to anyone in the supply chain, Lane says.
While marijuana-friendly state laws ease the path towards starting your very own cannabis business, entrepreneurs taking the DIY route will wind up in paperwork hell, Frank Lane, CEO of the cannabis media company CFN Media, tells Inverse. ThereвЂ™s very little precedent for large-scale enterprise in this industry, which is why consultants who have gained the necessary experience in other fields are in high demand. Experts educated in business law can help navigate legal weedвЂ™s complicated (and expensive) licensing procedures, while those with entrepreneurial experience and familiarity with industry norms can guide business owners through the process of setting up a business or even purchasing an existing dispensary, Lane adds.
(And not end up in jail.)
“I feel like the margins are shrinking, and that the people who got into the industry early were able to realize huge profits,” he says. “I think going forward it’s still a profitable business but practices just need to get better. I want to be a boutique facility—7,000 square feet as opposed to some in the state that are 200,000 square feet.” In the end, he hopes to produce 90 pounds per month in flower and have it retail for $200 an ounce in Denver and around $300 in the mountains.
Brian claims he grosses half a million a year this way, which comes out to about $250,000 after payroll and other expenses. Despite this, he doesn’t consider himself big-time, either.
This sort of friendliness is incredible to me, but one of the big things I learned from Darren is that most of the weed world seems to operate around credit. As he explained, though, “Why would you run off with a pound that would sell for $2,000, when the potential in the long run is worth so much more?”
The second lesson I learned was that middle-tier dealers are making a lot of their profits doing flips, or moving big amounts of weed for tiny amounts of money to other dealers below them. It seems obvious in retrospect, but they’re basically selling the fact that they have a connection.
In Miller’s vision of the future, selling marijuana won’t be any different than selling DVDs or paper. Presumably that’ll be nice for him and others who have gotten in on the ground floor.
Add the two inevitabilities of legalization and consolidation together, and it seems unlikely that tomorrow’s teens will even be afforded the choice of becoming either becoming sandwich artists or dime-bag-slinging outlaws. Perhaps they’ll all be working at either the Starbucks of weed or actual Starbucks.
Darren’s been dealing for three years now, and he’s moving a pound or two every week and a half. The guy above him, he says, is moving anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds a week, but still doesn’t consider himself a kingpin, or even big-time.
To answer that question, I called up Anthony Franciosi, a budding entrepreneur who moved to Colorado from New Jersey when he was 18 to become a marijuana farmer. As he learned to grow, he worked as an irrigation specialist and did restaurant work in the resort town of Steamboat Springs.
On paper, Brian makes next to nothing, about $15,000 a year. He has an LLC officially set up in Delaware, where taxes are lower, and now employs an uncurious accountant and a handful of deliverymen to do the schlepping he’s grown tired of doing himself.
When I was growing up, drug dealers always seemed to have cushy jobs that were a license to print money. But what are the actual economics behind the legal and illegal sides of the marijuana industry?