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Emerging jobs in pot industry

by The Canadian Press | Story: 136872 - Apr 5, 2015

Washington's marijuana business has created a legal occupation that offers career opportunities for bud trimmers.

"I've done everything from pumping gas to remodeling houses, but I think there's longevity in this," 32-year-old bud trimmer Kurt Vermillion told The Columbian. "I think there's lots of growing room in this industry. I want to do whatever they need me to do."

Bud trimmers make between $12 and $15 an hour and use small scissors to trim away leaves and other things from marijuana buds. Most trimmers work on about a pound to a pound and a half of marijuana per day.

Experienced workers can move up to gardeners or concentrate makers and make $50,000 to $90,000 a year.

For 37-year-old Julie Whittaker, who started trimming buds in November, the job turned out to be less stressful than her former work in the banking software industry.

"I've been learning my way as I go," she said. "I'm intrigued by this whole industry. It's a big shift for me, and honestly I find it to be better regulated than even my old career in banking."

Vermillion and Whittaker work at Cedar Creek Cannabis, where Mark Michaelson, head of operations, is eyeing ways to hold onto workers. The company has 14.

"We want to work on employee retention," he said. "Eventually we'll have health and dental insurance and full benefits for them, too."

Clark County has eight growers that have been approved by the Liquor Control Board, and five stores have opened in Clark County so far and two more are planning to open within two months.

Before the legalization of marijuana, bud trimmers migrated from job to job and were paid in cash by the pound and risked arrest. Now, bud trimmers typically make an hourly wage, though some are paid by the pound.

"I think what happens is people think in this industry, people are just hanging out and maybe even smoking," said 32-year-old Brittny Houghton, 32, whose family owns Cedar Creek Cannabis. "But that's not what we do. It's a real job, it's 9 to 5, you have to be on time, you don't have to be a smoker, and the quality of the work is important."

At CannaMan Farms, another marijuana business, owner Brian Stroh said trimmers come from a variety of backgrounds.

"It's a business that people who work hard can move up in," he said.

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