Insiders share their stories from the 'fastest-growing industry in America'; marijuana isn’t included in mainstream jobs reports, but another report says pot outsold Girl Scout cookies in 2015
Some have messy buns and sleeve tattoos. Some have salon cuts and $2,000 suits.
Some are joining blue-collar unions, getting health benefits as they grow and sell a plant they’ve long loved. Some say they never touch it, but they’re standing guard outside shops and fiercely lobbying legislators in Sacramento to ensure that others can.
As public support and legalization of cannabis spreads, those who’ve quietly worked in California’s medical marijuana industry are slowly emerging from the shadows. And professionals who never would have considered joining the industry a couple of years ago are leaving behind traditional careers in law, real estate and finance as they flock to what they see as the next big boom.
“The fastest-growing industry in America is marijuana, period,” said Jake Bhattacharya, who recently quit his information technology job to open a cannabis testing lab in Upland.
With medical marijuana legal in 25 states and recreational use allowed in four, pot outsold Girl Scout Cookies in 2015, according to a report from Marijuana Business Daily, a 5-year-old news website covering the industry.
Pot retail sales are expected to hit $4 billion this year, and Marijuana Business Daily is projecting that number could nearly triple by 2020.
The actual size of the industry may already be much larger, too, since California hasn’t tracked its massive medical marijuana market in the 20 years since it’s been legal. And it could skyrocket if voters here and a handful of other states approve recreational use Nov. 8.
The lack of reliable data coupled with the “niche” aspect of the industry is why cannabis — and the connected marijuana jobs — isn’t included in mainstream economic and jobs reports, according to Christopher Thornberg, director of the Center for Economic Forecasting and Development at UC Riverside.
“It’s still too fly-by-night,” Thornberg said.
California’s Employment Development Department doesn’t track the diverse daisy chain of cannabis jobs either. And several recruitment firms said they don’t deal with the industry.
Job seekers and employers instead turn to Craigslist or specialized sites. There’s a recent post on WeedHire.com for a $75,000-a-year account manager at GFarmaLabs, which makes marijuana products in Anaheim, and one on 420careers.com for growers and trimmers at Buds & Roses dispensary in Los Angeles.
Working in the industry isn’t without complications.
It remains illegal at the federal level, which limits access to financial services and causes lingering concerns over raids by federal authorities.
California’s market is also emerging from two decades of nearly nonexistent regulation and intense battles with local governments who were less than welcoming to “potrepreneurs.” That legacy means newly licensed shops often still rely on growers and manufacturers in the gray market, and they struggle to survive alongside unlicensed operators who aren’t paying the same hefty taxes.
Then there’s the glaring disapproval that comes from shrinking (per the polls) but vocal pockets of the public. Fear of backlash from conservative family members or future business associates kept a number of cannabis workers from speaking on the record for this story.
“Let’s face it, of course there is a stigma,” said Juliet Murphy, a career coach who runs Juliet Murphy Career Development in Tustin.
Murphy expects that it would raise eyebrows for more traditional employers to see a weed industry job on someone’s résumé. However, Murphy sees it as less of an issue going forward as the industry becomes more mainstream and as millennials continue to transform the workforce.
“There are still a lot of kinks that are being worked out. But I think this presents an opportunity for a lot of jobs, provided that people do it right,” Murphy said. “I think in the next 5 to 10 years, it’s going to be huge.”
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House Bill 1250, sponsored by Republican Cindy Acree, was originally aimed at banning the sale and manufacture of "medical marijuana-infused consumable food and beverage product[s]."
Acree, however, backed away from her original proposal in the wake of vehement opposition from medical marijuana advocates who, in testimony earlier this month, called HB 1250 "ridiculous," and a "slippery slope."
Acree, who says her concern has always been the marketing of edible medical marijuana products to children, is is now expected to propose new labeling requirements and other packaging safeguards instead of an outright ban on the sale of the products.
Nonetheless, the Cannabis Therapy Institute, a medical marijuana advocacy organization, remains skeptical of Tuesday's vote. "Amendments have been proposed to lessen the impact of this bill, but nothing is set in stone," the organization says on its website. "All options remain on the table, and new, unseen amendments have been promised by the sponsors."
The Colorado Department of Revenue is also expected to complete work this spring on regulations on marketing and packaging of medical marijuana products.
The medicinal use of marijuana has been legal in Colorado since the passage of a voter initiative in 2000.
The bill sponsored by Democratic Rep. Pat Noonan of Ramsay fell on a 50-49 vote.
The bill called for a label to read, "Warning: In some instances, marijuana may trigger acute psychosis or symptoms of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses."
Noonan tells the Billings Gazette in a story published Friday that he was asked to introduce the bill by the Montana Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Republican Rep. David Howard of Park City opposed the bill, contending it legitimizes what he considers an illegal substance.
Montana voters approved medical marijuana in a 2004 initiative.
Information from: Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com
Denver Post staff and wire reports
The Denver Post
Loveland City Attorney John Duval said he has not received notice of a hearing to consider the lawsuit's claim that the city's ban on dispensaries is unconstitutional.
Attorney Robert Corry Jr. filed a complaint in Larimer County District Court late Monday, seeking a temporary restraining order that would allow the dispensaries to remain open. Corry claimed the city's ban on dispensaries "is unconstitutional, because it unduly burdens patients and caregivers."
Meanwhile, Loveland police said all the dispensaries in the city were shuttered, which means the owners avoided jail time or heavy fines.
Voters in November passed a marijuana-dispensary ban by an overwhelming majority. The vote gave the dispensaries until Tuesday to close their doors.
Vallejo pot-laced cookie traced to gas station convenience store
By Lanz Christian Bañes
(Vallejo) Times Herald Mercurynews.com 3/1/11
The clerk at Calco Mart and Gas gas station and convenience store on Maine Street told investigators that a regular customer gave him the two ginger snaps that he then passed on to a Grace Patterson Elementary School fifth-grader, Sgt. Jeff Bassett said in a statement.
The fifth-grader made regular stops to the convenience store, and the clerk would give him small food items, Bassett said.
The student shared one of the cookies with three others at lunch Monday, not knowing it had marijuana in it, said Vallejo City Unified School District spokeswoman Tish Busselle.
Three of the students were taken to Kaiser Permanente Vallejo Medical Center and released Monday evening. All four were OK Tuesday, Busselle said.
The Vallejo Police Department said at least six students may have eaten the cookie, though Busselle said the district has identified only four.
The store clerk told police that he did not know the individually packaged cookies had marijuana, Bassett said. The packages were not clearly marked, Bassett said.
A Patterson Elementary teacher discovered the cookies contained marijuana after she read the label of the uneaten cookie when her students became sick.
The silver package, branded Auntie's Edibles, has a cartoon image of a blonde, motherly woman holding a tray of cookies in oven mitts.
A search of Auntie's Edibles yielded a Facebook page, describing the company as a Colorado-based group specializing in "delectable edibles."
The cookies' ingredients are listed as sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, cannabis butter, whole eggs, organic flour, ground ginger, vanilla beans, baking soda and sea salt.
The label also has a red stripe with the word "sativa," a reference to the marijuana plant. The notation "6X" is highlighted in a blue star, followed by a fine-print description that reads, "This package contains 6 doses of medicine. Each dose consists of .6g of cannabis."
It also includes a red print warning of the plant's medical cannabis content and that the product should be kept "out of reach of children and pets."
The clerk also was unable to identify the customer who gave him the cookies, Bassett said. The police department has a portion of one of the cookies and both packages, Bassett said.
Meet the man who could finally see Rhode Island compassion centers into existence.
Dr. Michael Fine appointed interim head of R.I. Department of Health
25 February 2011
Providence Business News
PROVIDENCE – The director of Medical Services for the R.I. Department of Corrections will serve as the interim director of the R.I. Department of Health, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s office announced Thursday.
Dr. Michael Fine takes the place of Dr. David R. Gifford, whose resignation takes effect Friday. Fine will serve until a successor is named to permanently fill the position.
At the corrections department, Fine supervised about 100 employees that cared for 10,000 to 20,000 people annually and 3,700 people at any given time. He took the reins of the $23 million department last year.
At the Department of Health, Fine will oversee a roughly $115 million budget that comes largely from the federal government but faces reductions as the state struggles with a tight budget.
Fine, a former primary care physician, takes charge as the department prepares to decide whether to allow controversial allow medical marijuana dispensaries to open. He also arrives less than two weeks before Chafee is expected to unveil his first state budget.
Fine is a graduate of Haverford College and the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He completed his residency with the Brown University Program in Family Medicine at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island in Pawtucket.