Cannabis Healing Sparks Passion in Patients: Turning Advocacy into a Career in the Industry
Those who’ve discovered cannabis as a healing medicine for themselves or as a caregiver for a loved one sometimes become so moved by their experience that it propels them to seek employment within the industry.
From the earliest days that propelled legalization efforts, legal and medical sector professionals were among the first to leave their comfortable jobs to pursue cannabis advocacy. These pioneers often did so knowing they’d be incurring financial losses and taking legal risks.
The landscape of legalization means careers in cannabis aren’t so risky these days. Both medical and recreational programs are rapidly expanding, leading to massive cannabis job growth. FlowerHire, a national platform for delivering cannabis talent, has noted a significant uptick in six-figure jobs in the cannabis sector. Stories like Cookies founder Berner–a former Wendy’s employee whose underground cultivation knowledge led him to start what’s now a billionaire-dollar cannabis empire–further fuels ambitious career climbers in this hot new industry.
But while financial gain may widen the eyes of canna-entrepreneurs willing to roll the dice, there are jobs to be filled at every level in the legal industry. Here’s a few stories of advocates whose passion for the plant led to a career change:
Sal, Dispensary Budtender
Sal is a dispensary budtender in Ohio. Here’s what he had to say about his experience as a patient turned new industry worker:
“I started using cannabis when I was around 17 years old. Originally, I was interested in its recreational use and would enjoy cannabis with my friends every so often. Later on, I learned and continue to learn how this medicine can positively impact the conditions that make my life more difficult.
Cannabis is able to help me alleviate symptoms brought on by my PTSD, chronic pain, anxiety, and ADHD. Typically, flower or concentrates work best. Edibles don’t work for me traditionally, as I have pretty severe GI health issues. My working theory is that the THC is likely broken down due to my heavy stomach acid content before it’s able to be absorbed by my liver. Sublingual and nano-THC also work great for me.
I decided to pursue a job in cannabis when I started seeing the positive benefits cannabis brought to my life outside of a recreational format. I wanted to learn as much as I can so that I could educate and help people with cannabis.
I wouldn’t have had the confidence to speak on my cannabis use so openly a year ago today. Now, I feel comfortable expressing my appreciation and love for the plant and the culture around it, as it is what I’m building my life around. I feel zero risk making this information public.
I feel full of gratitude. I feel like I’m part of a community. The Ohio medical marujuana program really is full of amazing people who want the best for our patients. This program wouldn’t be as good as it is without all the people on the ground level. Being a part of our program’s construction is something I’m proud of. Telling my story gives me hope that more people will feel motivated to join our industry.
I hope that I can help patients make informed decisions when they’re in the dispensary, and help them feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. I hope to help de-stigmatize and educate about cannabis from within the community outward.
Without giving explicit details or recommendations, I let people know that Ohio has an amazing medical marijuana program, and that they should join! Most of all, I try to spread awareness about cannabis and vote for pro-cannabis legislature, as we fight for rescheduling of cannabis on a federal level.”
Solomon, Edibles Products Processor
Solomon’s edibles brand just hit the market in Ohio via Columbus-based standalone processor BeneLeaves. Here’s what he had to say about his experience going from patient to advocate to industry entrepreneur:
“I started using cannabis 20 years ago to help with anxiety and migraines. I still use it for maintenance of migraines and anxiety (although not on the list of qualifying conditions in the state). I use flower, vapes, and also salves to help with maintenance.
I’ve been actively advocating for cannabis legalization since the early 2000s as a result of living in San Francisco and watching the climate change to medicinal marijuana dispensaries and holistic alternative medicine. I also wanted to be a legal representation of legacy markets and minorities transitioning into the new legal space.
It really means a lot to tell my story. I want to show that there is space for non MSOs to create amazing products for the industry and thrive in the emerging market. Not afraid of being in position to show positive change and to represent small business. Being that my brand is the first in Ohio to be a small business partnering with a licensed processor and creating new products on the market is exciting and could be challenging. Luckily I have been an advocate in the program and helped start a non profit that created a lot of charitable contributions to Ohio families with a collective of ancillary businesses in the cannabis space. It’s really rewarding to help your community and make differences in others lives.
Our plan is to create Artisan edibles with amazing flavors and medicinal properties that give patients a different experience in edible products. For now we are currently poised to get all products out in the medicinal space. When time does come for recreational sales we can then see how our Brand has made a difference for the medical community and translate over to the recreational space.
As far as the company, I partnered with a friend from high school, Ty Fujimura, a restaurateur and entrepreneur with Michelin star rated restaurants in Chicago. We are pushing the envelope on Minority owned businesses (black and Asian) in the cannabis space that has only 2 percent inclusion in the cannabis industry.”
Medical Marijuana Physicians
Outside of the various positions at dispensaries, cultivation facilities, and processors, the industry also has robust opportunities for what are called “ancillary” cannabis businesses. Ancillary businesses don’t touch the plant itself, but rather add support for those who use it. These can include positions in medical marijuana physicians’ offices, cannabis packaging, accounting, human resources, technology, marketing, or non-profit organizations, just to name a few!
For doctors like Kamal Morar, M.D.. who founded Duber Medical, and new medical director Gabrielle F. Morris,M.D, seeing decades of opioid addiction in their patients was a driving factor toward pursuing a career that could help give patients access to a natural alternative. Morar had been a interventional pain specialist since 2005 and observed several hundred patients taking street marijuana which resulted in adequate pain control as well as additional benefits such as anxiety reduction and help with sleep. “If these patients were doing so well with marijuana products off of the street without even knowing what they were taking, how much more would we be able to do for them if they had access to products that they knew more about with the help of a physician guiding them.”
Duber’s New Chief Medical Officer Dr. Morris agrees. Her 30-year career has given her first-hand experience in a myriad of specialties including Neurological Surgery, Trauma, Complex Orthopedic Spinal Surgery, and Emergency Medicine. She says, “I love interacting with patients, hearing about their journey with medical marijuana, and sharing with them about how to experience the full benefits that cannabis has to offer.”
How to Find Work in the Cannabis Industry
Cannabis jobs can be searched here:
You may also find your local dispensary to be a good source of information for open positions in the cannabis industry in your area.
Author: Gabrielle Dion Visca
Gabrielle has been writing and editing professionally for the medical and wellness industries for more than 20 years. She’s held positions with The Journal of Pediatrics, Livestrong, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and Patient Pop. She currently writes articles about medical marijuana for Duber Medical, and is the founder of the Ohio cannabis journalism non-profit, Medicate OH, c/o In(form)ed/Community Shares of Mid Ohio 1699 W Mound St Columbus, OH 43223