When you think of a growing business you’d like to work for, what comes to mind? Know of any career opportunities cropping up lately? Heard of any jobs with high yields lately? There is a budding industry where young entrepreneurs and seasoned veterans alike have been flocking to for new and exciting career opportunities. The ‘green space’, ‘the biz’ or ‘big Canna’ has taken the nation by storm and has entrenched itself as one of the top new places for employment since 2018. We’re talking about the cannabis industry in Canada, of course!
Have you been thinking about joining the cannabiz? What kinds of cannabis growing careers are there? How much do budtenders make? Are cannabis cultivation jobs the highest paying? How do you make bank as a cannabis influencer? Let’s peel back the curtain of the cannabis industry and see what makes it tick in this guide to cannabis careers worth looking into.
The cannabis industry is growing - literally, figuratively, intellectually, culturally and much more. The growing space in Canada has become one of the most integral work forces for this relatively young industry, and it’s thanks to Canadian cultivators that weed businesses continue to succeed. Cannabis cultivation jobs are so fundamental to everything that goes on in the weed industry that you might say these kinds of positions are the rich soil from which the plant flourishes.
Cannabis growing careers can take many paths - genetics & breeding, propagation, germination, cloning, vegetative specialization and of course flowering & harvesting. At your typical growing facility you’ll find teams of dozens - if not hundreds - of cultivators, trimmers, cloners, breeders, harvesters and more. Growing cannabis in Canada is a passion-filled, driving-force of the industry that collects all the avid green thumbs together in a shared pursuit of “the next biggest/best thing” in cannabis.
Are you considering a career in cannabis growing? Taking part in the “bloom boom” is a great opportunity to get your hands dirty (quite literally in many cases), enjoy stead/stable employment as a member of a fast-paced, high-stakes position, and it's all for the best of causes: contributing to human health & happiness.
Here are some essential takeaways for what makes cannabis cultivation jobs so appealing, lucrative and satisfying in the Canadian cannabis scene in 2023:
Ontario employs the most cannabis cultivation jobs, followed by British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and Manitoba. These provinces represent between 60-70% of the entire country’s growers. Saskatchewan has shown significant employment numbers for cannabis growers in recent years, but the Maritimes and Northern Territories have yet to improve their cultivation worker statistics.
Demographically speaking cannabis growing careers have been a major draw for many young adults between the ages of 20-40. The median age for cultivation employees is actually much older, sitting around 49-52. However, this is likely due to the fact that the majority of hires in the early days of cannabis legalization in Canada required some form of qualifications, so many older men and women with horticulture & agriculture experience made up the first waves of hiring.
Today, the trends have shifted to accommodate vast numbers of keen, young green thumbs who have flooded the legal and legacy markets with fresh talents. It is difficult to say exactly how many cannabis cultivation jobs there are because of the constant ebb-and-flow of production needs, but generally speaking there are between 315,000 and 450,000 cultivation jobs in Canada currently.
Cannabis cultivation obviously requires working knowledge and skills associated with horticulture, but because cannabis qualifications are quite new there are many exceptions made when it comes to hiring. Experience from similar industries like agriculture, horticulture, production/manufacturing work, and many jobs where quality standards are similarly high to that of cannabis cultivation.
Any post-secondary education or certification for plant biology, growing techniques, pest management or genetics research/manipulation will make a candidate stand out above the rest.
Wages for cannabis growers are typically a lot higher than your average CSR or public service jobs. The average hourly wages for growers falls between $28-85 - 32.55 per hour, with a significant number of advanced cultivation employees earning as high as $52.50 on average, per hour.
Many members of the cultivation team can also achieve salaries and paid benefits within a relatively short amount of time. Salaries for growers are variable from company to company, but the average figures seem to be around the $55,000 - 70,000 mark.
The hierarchy of cannabis cultivation jobs in Canada typically aligns like this:
Cultivation Assistants: introductory, limited growing experience, helps with menial tasks like cleaning, sanitization, labor, etc.
Cultivators: handle plants at various stages of its life-cycle; many specialize into propagation, cloning, veg or flower teams and focus on their respective crops’ stages in their life-cycles.
Head Growers/Lead Cultivators: supervisors assigned to various crop departments (seed germination, cloning, veg or flower teams, harvesters, etc).
Harvesters/Dryers/Curators: the “showtime” growers whose expertise in cannabis yields are second-to-none; this high-performance cultivation team and its members are under a lot of pressure to put all the previous efforts together and produce the final bud products.
Master Growers: the captain’s of every growing facility ship, they manage all levels of cultivation from fertilization & lighting systems to genetics and plant health (more on this particular cannabis growing career in the next section).
If you’re more skilled than your average home crop grower and you want to put your green thumb knowledge & abilities to the test, then a position as a Master Grower might be more to your liking. Master Growers, Head Growers, Cultivation Team Lead or other similarly named positions are an absolutely high-stakes, high-pressure but high-rewards position that oversees almost everything that happens on the growing room floors. The responsibilities for Master Growers include, but are not limited to:
Hiring, Training, Firing
Supplier/Customer Relationship Management
As you can see by this list of high-performance metrics, Master Growers have a lot on their plates - possibly more than anyone else in a cannabis enterprise. To be qualified for a Head Grower position you’ll need a wealth of experience and demonstrable skills in all facets of cannabis cultivation. This will typically focus on the following topics: genetics, propagation, cloning, veg & flower growth, harvesting, drying/curing. On top of overseeing all crops at all stages of their development, Master Growers need to have intimate knowledge of fertilizer plans, feeding & watering schedules, equipment expertise, emergency operation plans, cost analysis and budgeting experience. Suffice to say, only the best of the best can make it as Master Growers, so if you consider yourself a weed whisperer then this might be the budding career opportunity for you.
Budtenders are one of the most under appreciated career opportunities in the cannabis space today. Without these knowledgeable, passionate and caring individuals we wouldn’t have access to the right kinds of products that suit our needs. Your average budtender is typically a staunch cannabis advocate - or even activist - with working knowledge of cannabinoids & terpenes, paired with extensive familiarity with the latest genetics and their subsequent effects on human health & wellbeing.
What are the important details we should know about a career in budtending? Here are answers to some of the most asked questions about budtender careers:
Because retail jobs commonly offer lower-tier wages than more skilled positions like cultivation, budtenders make much less on average than those green thumbs who produce the buds they sell. The average annual earnings for budtenders in Canada hovers between $45,000 and $50,000. These might be hourly wages or salaries - it’s very dependent on the Province/Territory and the company’s policies.
While these wages aren’t the most lucrative, many budtenders and sales associate positions with cannabis dispensaries offer benefits, bonuses and cannabis allotments to make up for the lower earnings. Free or cheap weed is certainly a major perk of these kinds of budtender jobs, so in a way you’re making dank, if not bank.
The chief reason for a budtender in the grand scheme of things is to help guide customers to the right kinds of cannabis products. Instead of selling the latest or greatest cannabis for salespersonship, budtender today are all about education, training, communication and caring for customer needs. Cannabis sells itself in many ways - people are seeking particular effects, flavors or experiences, so budtenders try to match a person’s wants with the cannabis that fits their needs.
Budtenders also have to be very familiar with trends in the industry, know all the different kinds of strains, products and effects of cannabinoids & terpenes. Budtenders typically do store cleaning/sanitization, organizing shelves, putting up displays or signage, doing inventory counts and a number of other retail duties when they’re not servicing customers.
Any skill sets you’d need to work in retail or services will undoubtedly translate to budtender positions as well. The major thing that separates these run-of-the-mill retail jobs from budtending is an extensive knowledge of cannabis, in all its forms. No pressure, right? Most budtender jobs will look for the following assets when hiring:
Customer service experience
Friendly, approachable and passionate about people
Extensive knowledge/experience with cannabis in various forms
Understanding of plant biology, phytocannabinoids and terpenes
Willingness to learn
Attention to detail
This last point is absolutely essential because of the large numbers of new customers coming in to try cannabis for the first time. Budtenders need to sell the right products to customers to suit their needs, but they also need to help avoid giving clients too strong products, wrong products or mislabelled packaging - the difference between 50 mg CBD and 50 mg THC for newbies can be brain-melting!
The tastiest career opportunity in the cannabis landscape right now is obviously weed chef jobs. Although cannabis cuisine is in its infancy, it’s certainly rising up the ranks as fast as you can say “skunky skillet”. Weed chef job opportunities are continuing to grow in numbers as more and more restaurants or catering companies are recognizing the wonderful world of weed flavors, aromas and effects on human health.
Cannabis cuisine seems to blend both fun and health in the most perfect medium: foods we love just because, but enhanced with certain cannabinoids and terpenes to make it even more beneficial as much as it is enjoyable. Cannabis chefs are like mad scientists dabbling in out-of-this-world flavors and food combinations, paired with the world of sharp scents, unique flavors, overwhelming effects and sensory enhancements of cannabis’ active compounds.
How about a full-spectrum filet mignon? Have the palette for a garlic, ginger and ganja linguini? Maybe some buds & berries on cream is more to your tastes? Weed chef jobs are probably one of the most fun in the cannabusiness because of the creative freedoms, diversity of day-to-day operations, excitement of travel and meeting new clients and all the benefits of being passionate about cooking. Weed chef jobs almost always pay well, they include a wealth of benefits to the job - travel, food exploration, meeting lots of people, etc - and the obvious bonuses of high-society (who doesn’t enjoy being fancy from time to time?).
This is where things get a little… hazy. Marketing cannabis in Canada can be difficult with all the promotional restrictions and stigmatization that still exists in society. ‘Social weedia’ as its been dubbed has seen a ton of ups-and-downs over the past five years, but the strength of Canada’s cannabis culture continues to support our efforts to normalize weed, promote cannabis culture and communicate the benefits of this wondrous plant in all its varieties.
Jobs like marketing consultant, cannabis influencer, brand manager, sales rep., digital marketing specialist and events coordinator make this category of cannabis careers very fast-paced, exciting and quite lucrative. The average salaries for sales & marketing team members tend to be among the highest in the industry on average - $60,000 to $80,000+.
One job that’s cropped up faster than you can say “cannabiz” is cannabis influencer. Cannabis influencers manage social media channels, host events or engage with a company’s customers/following throughout the day & night. Cannabis influencers will typically cover the following duties in their daily work lives:
Messaging customers, fans, followers
Promote deals, sales, products, services and events for partner companies
Host social media events or in-person events
Interact with cannabis community across all social media platforms
Social media posts, channel management, sales upkeep
Cannabis influencers sometimes have more of a third party involvement - i.e. only sponsoring sales, events or social media posts with their notoriety/brand. In other cases cannabis influencers can take on a more active management role and manage all social media activities, engage with online communities and even work sales floors.
Social weedia only continues to grow in prominence, so cannabis influencers will continue to hold an important role for many cannabis companies. As we continue to breakdown stigmas, expand our knowledge & understanding of cannabis in all its varieties, and explore new ways to incorporate cannabis into modern society these kinds of marketing & media positions will only become more lucrative.
What are the highest paying cannabis jobs?
Excluding executive positions or presidential/vice presidential jobs that obviously have the highest salaries, the highest paying cannabis jobs in Canada are Master Grower, Operations Manager, Special Medical Advisor, Lead Quality Assurance/Control Person and Head of Sales. These types of jobs consistently pay very well and include benefits, write-offs, expense accounts and more.
What is the top cannabis company in Canada?
The top grossing cannabis company in Canada in 2022 was Tilray Brands Inc., with a market cap of $2.07 Billion. Next, Canopy Growth Corp. comes in 2nd place at $1.38 Billion, followed closely by Cronos Group at $1.07 Billion. Several other large cannabis ventures like Aurora Cannabis Inc., TerrAscend Corp. and SNDL Inc. round out the top 5 most successful & largest cannabis companies in Canada.
Is the cannabis industry a good career?
The cannabis sector in Canada is such a fantastic place for employment. There are thousands of jobs available from hundreds of growing companies. The position variability is excellent, from cultivation careers to retail jobs and social media opportunities. The cannabis industry in Canada continues to expand as cannabis becomes more firmly entrenched in modern Canadian society.