Published November 9th, 2022 at 1:41 PM
During the tech boom at the turn of the century, Dave Morrissey worked for a company that sold networking hardware at wholesale prices.
Morrissey decided to bring that same business model to cannabis when Missouri entered the medical marijuana market in 2018 and started a systems integrator company, Cannabis Experts.
“Our job is to bring distributor pricing, and provide integration services to basically bring (dispensaries and cultivators) better pricing for their build-outs and all the components that they may spend a dollar on,” Morrissey said.
For example, if someone is building a dispensary and looking for glass cases, Morrissey will put the dispensary in contact with his partners who sell cases and the dispensary can choose a provider with competitive pricing.
Cannabis Experts is one of many ancillary businesses that stand to benefit from an expanded cannabis market after Missouri voters approved recreational marijuana.
Folks tend to think only of plant-touching cannabis jobs such as at dispensaries, cultivators and extractors. But there are many non-plant-touching businesses and career opportunities in cannabis.
Constitutional Amendment 3 passed in Missouri yesterday and legalized marijuana consumption and usage by adults over 21 years of age.
Missouri’s expansion into a larger, recreational market could mean new business opportunities in your field too.
Chris Day is the CEO of Gateway Proven Strategies, a global cannabis market research and consulting firm. He’s seen the cannabis market expand and create new jobs in states as they legalize marijuana.
“States that choose to enter the cannabis marketplace do create a ton of opportunity, a ton of jobs,” Day said. “It’s why cannabis as an industry is one of the fastest, biggest job creators in the country right now.”
A recent cannabis jobs report by Leafly found more than 107,000 new jobs were created by the cannabis market in the past year, bringing the national total to 428,059 full-time jobs. This includes both plant-touching and non-plant-touching jobs.
The same report predicts that a fully legal (recreational) U.S. cannabis market would support between 1.5 million and 1.75 million jobs.
Cannabis is exciting because it’s a new industry.
But Day said it’s not much different from any other industry.
“It’s been maligned for so long that I think people are so focused on very specific plant-touching roles,” Day said.
The cannabis industry needs people in finance, accounting, marketing, brand compliance and supply chain logistics, Day said as he listed many other necessary career skills.
“Every single one of these plant touching jobs that are created (and) every retail operation that’s opened, has an army of people behind it that helps to to expand it,” Day said.
Not only will a legal market create “thousands and thousands” of jobs, but Day said it creates additional spin-off opportunities.
Even so, greater opportunity doesn’t necessarily mean greater social equity.
Leading up to the election, Amendment 3 was often critiqued for its social equity program. Folks in opposition argued that the proposed microlicenses weren’t enough of an opportunity for the communities that have been most affected by the prohibition of marijuana.
While non-plant-touching jobs offer folks a wider breadth of business opportunities, Day said it’s up to individuals and business leaders to foster an equitable and inclusive environment.
“It’s not only up to the legislators, but also the people working within the industry, to pay attention to history and make sure that moving forward, we build the industry and the businesses in a fashion that is inclusive and is responsible,” Day said about both plant-touching and ancillary businesses.
Not everyone has the opportunity to join an emerging industry in its early stages.
“Those types of opportunities do not happen very often in the lifetime,” Day said. “When they present themselves, if you are inclined to engage in something truly new … this is your time.”
Day said any business that wants to transition to the cannabis industry should approach it with an open mind and know that the industry is always adjusting.
“Every stage of the business, every stage of economic development as a new state comes in, requires huge amounts of adaptation,” Day said.
He also said folks need to be prepared for hard work. While the cannabis business is booming and new and exciting, it’s not a guarantee for success.
“Just because you build it doesn’t mean that they will come,” Day said. “You have to work hard to build the business, and you need to learn from those who have gone before in a responsible and sustainable and equitable fashion.”
Some companies are interested in marijuana but don’t want to make it their sole focus.
Mike Markham is the director of commercial and industrial technologies at Commenco, a technology solutions company based in Kansas City.
Shortly after Missouri legalized medical marijuana, Commenco partnered with a California-based software company that specializes in cannabis tracking software.
It was a way for the company to dip its toe into the cannabis industry.
“It’s not a huge departure for us, from a technology perspective,” Markham said. “It’s a different angle, and trying to help people satisfy the needs of the state, in essence.”
Markham said Commenco’s work in cannabis currently accounts for less than 5% of its business.
“If it starts becoming something that we should pay attention to, we will,” Markham said. “I think everybody is in kind of a wait-and-see mode.”
Tammy Puyear is the co-president of We Are JAINE, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering women in cannabis.
Puyear assists with consulting, compliance and marketing for cannabis businesses in Missouri.
She knows women who applied and weren’t able to secure a dispensary or cultivator license under Missouri’s medical program, so they pivoted their approach to entering the industry.
“A lot of the people that applied for licenses and didn’t get them already have established careers of some kind,” Puyear said. “Whether you’re an accountant, or a lawyer or you do pest control, or security, transportation, all of those things that you would have in normal industry, we need those skill sets in cannabis.”
Before moving a business into the cannabis industry, Puyear said it’s important that folks get educated. Despite how young the industry is in Missouri, Puyear said there are many educational opportunities through universities and online resources.
“Being passionate is certainly something that we look for, but for people that want to work in the industry, it’s important for them to understand how the program works, and the inventory framework of how it works,” Puyear said.
That’s partially why she founded We Are JAINE. It gives women some educational opportunities and networking skills to better understand the cannabis business.
Morrissey of Cannabis Experts said connections are vital when getting started in cannabis. He recommends anyone interested in transitioning their business/career into marijuana join a cannabis trade organization to foster industry connections.
He described cannabis as “the wild west” because there are so many avenues of entry and gaps to fill.
“The kind of chaos of the industry creates a lot of opportunity,” Morrissey said.
It’s inevitable that the market will expand now with adult-use legalization, but Morrissey said that doesn’t mean everyone who goes into cannabis will “kill it”.
“There’s a lot of sex appeal to the industry, but it’s not make-a-buck quick,” Morrissey said. “You want to be in it for the long haul.”
Cami Koons covers rural affairs for Kansas City PBS in cooperation with Report for America. The work of our Report for America corps members is made possible, in part, through the generous support of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.