As legal pot booms in Washington State, the 420-friendly step out for a canna-business job fair – and reveal a diverse and growing population.
Here are the numbers:
Roughly 30 employers from the Washington cannabis industry offering 150 jobs to 500 job seekers giving their spiel over the din of 22 successive industry speakers.
Not bad for a sunny Saturday in the conservative Seattle ‘burb of Bellevue.
Organized by the Marijuana Business Association, (MJBA), headed by Dave Rheins and Morgan K, which produces several digital publications and orchestrates B2B networking opportunities, the job fair looked much like that of any other industry: black-skirted booths, attendees prettied-up and pushing a product, a job, or themselves. Business cards at the ready, elevator pitches pitching.
Vendors ranged from a ginger-haired ganja-preneur who could pass for your sweet-as-pie great Aunt hawking cannabis-leaf embroidery, to Eden Labs, which creates top-notch extraction equipment, to a Union rep for Cannabis Workers Rising, the newest division of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). He noted that many new MJ businesses are proactively compliant and professional:
“I don’t see abuses, really. What I see are industry leaders and business owners who want information about wages, insurance, benefits, legal protection. They’re coming to us to create a protected environment more than workers coming to us complaining of issues.”
What differentiated this event from other industry fairs – in terms of vendors and attendees – was not the novelty of it being focused on marijuana per se, (or even that there was a ‘fashion show’ featuring vendors at – you guessed it – 4:20 pm) but the seeming lack of a definable demographic. Job seekers spanned ages, gender, and racial lines, and came from a variety of professional backgrounds. The atmosphere was relaxed – even convivial. Not what you’d expect from a room full of folks vying to get their piece of the ‘Green Rush.’
“It’s a different feeling,” said one attendee. “Not as cut throat. Maybe because it’s all so new and there isn’t as much competition. But everyone seems to know each other and the landscape. It’s relatively supportive – I didn’t expect that.”
Only 60 recreational cannabis licenses (Compare that to Colorado’s 230) have been granted in Washington State since July. Of those very few have actually opened for business, and early on, many were frequently forced to close due to scarce supply. But even with these challenges, the recreational industry has managed to generate over 14 million in sales and roughly $3 million in tax revenues. In addition, the more than 200 licensed growers who have rapidly filled the state’s cap of 2 million square feet of legal ‘canopy,’ or growing space, could potentially allow production to finally keep up with demand.
But, as evidenced by the MJBA Job Fair, the brick-and-mortar face of cannabis sales is only the tip of the green-commerce iceberg. Cannabis growers, edibles makers, bud tenders, security personnel, marketers, software developers, administrative staff, trimmers, consultants, lab-testers, extractors – and more, are all part of a broader transformation bringing greater transparency and legitimacy, and therefore greater acceptance, to what was less than two years ago, an illegal black market.
In spite of some initial bumps, the burgeoning rec market has managed to produce a kaleidoscopic array of services. And all of this without a whiff of pot on their starched collars – which makes them true capitalists, indeed.