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Budtending by the numbers: Here’s where the jobs are

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Legal cannabis is America’s fastest-growing industry, with more than 428,000 jobs across dozens of states. If you’re curious about starting a cannabis career—or just want a job with decent pay and cool co-workers—budtending is an excellent way to learn the trade.

Dispensaries in Eastern states are booming, and that means they’re hiring.

Leafly’s 2022 Cannabis Jobs Report found 428,000 full-time jobs in America’s legal cannabis industry—a 33% increase from last year’s 321,000. The report was published in Feb. 2022, and since then tens of thousands of jobs have been created in booming states like Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, Florida, New York, and New Jersey.

One thing to note: nearly all of those states are east of the Mississippi River. America’s cannabis boom began in the West, but today’s hiring boom is happening in the East.

Here’s a look at budtending by the numbers.

Budtender wages

This varies from state to state and city to city. But wages generally start in the $14 to $16 per-hour range. Data firm Payscale estimates the average budtender wage at $14, though it can rise to the $18 to $22 per-hour range. For reference, the federal minimum wage is only $7.25 per hour. State and city minimum wage laws may set a higher rate.

Some dispensaries may also offer bonuses, commissions, and tips, but these aren’t universal industry practices.

Budtender benefits

The cannabis hiring company Vangst reports that in 2021, around 72% of cannabis companies they surveyed offered paid time off to their employees, while 71% offered health insurance benefits (with around half including dental and vision).

Career building

If you want to make $50 an hour, budtending won’t get you there. But it can be leveraged as a stepping stone into a career in America’s fastest-growing industry.

Demand for experienced budtenders is rising in New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Jersey as those states open their adult-use stores.

As a budtender, you’re gaining valuable experience on the front lines, learning what customers care about in product modalities and quality, experiencing the rhythm of the retail day and week, spotting trends, understanding distribution channels, and sharing your passion with customers who are genuinely excited to be shopping at your store.

Top budtenders typically rise to become assistant managers, retail managers, or product buyers, but really there’s no limit with the right attitude. As a budtender, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the entire industry, and from there you can pursue your passion—whether it’s growing, product development, manufacturing, or any one of a hundred different roles in the industry.

As more states get their markets up and running, demand for experienced employees goes up. Budtenders coming from a mature retail market like Colorado, Washington, California, or Oregon may find their knowledge and skills highly valued by startup cannabis retailers in newly legal states like Vermont, New York, and New Jersey.

Who’s hiring now?

Nearly every cannabis company is hiring. This is an industry that sees double-digit growth every single year. But right now there are a number of emerging states that are hiring at blinding speed.

  • Florida: Medical marijuana sales in the Sunshine State could reach up to $1 billion this year, with over 700,000 registered patients who need employees to consult.
  • Illinois: Illinois has sold over $1 billion worth of cannabis in 2022 alone.
  • Maine: Mainers and visitors love legal weed, with sales up 120% from last year.
  • Michigan: Cannabis sales keep climbing, and the state has nearly 1,000 dispensaries and counting that need employees.
  • Missouri: Bud business is booming! Missouri medical cannabis sales are up 500% since mid-2021.
  • New Jersey: Adult-use sales began in April 2022, with over $20 million in sales in the first month. It’s only up from here.
  • New York: In the last couple months, New York has issued licenses to hundreds of growers, processors and retailers for its impending adult-use cannabis industry, including up to 150 dispensary licenses. If they manage to start adult-use sales before the end of 2022, budtenders will be needed.
  • Vermont: Adult-us sales in Vermont started on Oct. 1, 2022.
  • Rhode Island and Connecticut: Adult-use sales in both states are coming in late 2022 or early 2023.

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