Steps to Get a Job at a Cannabis Dispensary & How to Apply

March 20, 2024

Work at a Dispensary

If you’re interested in learning how to apply for a job at a dispensary, now is the perfect time to dig into the details. As more states pass legislation to legalize recreational and medical marijuana, dispensaries are popping up nationwide. The demand for competent employees is soaring from California to Missouri and Illinois to Maine.

As of November 2023, 24 states, two territories and the District of Columbia have implemented measures to regulate cannabis for adult recreational use. The industry’s continued growth opens up new opportunities for qualified dispensary technicians with retail sales experience and an eagerness to expand their product knowledge.

In Illinois alone, there are currently 113 adult-use cannabis dispensaries, which in 2022 sold $1.5 billion worth of products, up more than 12% from 2021. Experts predict that combined medical and recreational sales in the United States could reach over $49 billion by the end of 2026.

With this state-by-state increase in legalized sales, new and existing businesses will continue to seek candidates to fill open positions.

Cannabis Dispensary Job Overview

  • Basic skills:
    • Customer service
    • Retail sales experience
    • Effective communication
    • Eagerness and willingness to learn
    • Cash handling and computer skills
  • In-Demand skills:
    • Previous industry work experience
    • Cannabis product knowledge
    • Legal and regulatory knowledge
    • Familiarity with point-of-sale systems
    • Agriculture/horticulture experience is helpful for growers and harvesters
  • Jobs:
    • Budtender
    • Grow room cultivator, tender, trimmer, harvester
    • Extraction technician
    • Packaging worker
    • Delivery driver
    • General manager

Basic Steps Before Applying

Since regulations vary by state, the steps to get a job at a dispensary aren’t the same for everyone. Retail positions range from entry-level budtenders (front-counter salespeople) to higher-paying managers. However, there is a common path to follow when starting a job search.

  • Outline your career goals: Nail down your commitment, whether you are interested in short-term temporary work or a longer career path within the industry.
  • List your current qualifications and experience: Previous experience is ideal, but any customer-facing retail skills will give you a competitive edge.
  • Check your state’s age requirements: In most states, employees must be over the age of 21 to work at a dispensary. In a few states, the minimum age requirement is 18.
  • Research local and state regulations: Depending on the position you want, specific training may be necessary within your state. For details, check out the National Cannabis Industry Association’s list of state-by-state marijuana policies.

Training Programs

Proper training is important in anyone’s quest to learn how to work at a cannabis dispensary. With the growing demand for skilled employees, this training is critical for businesses to operate legally and responsibly. Employees who handle, sell or transport product are typically required to complete Responsible Vendor Training (RVT), also known as budtender training.

What Is a Responsible Cannabis Vendor?

These vendors are trained to handle and sell products according to state rules and regulations. They know how to properly check ID and refuse legal sales. They understand state and local laws, and they can instruct customers about different products and safe and responsible dosing.

Recreational and medical cannabis businesses typically require employees to complete a state-approved Responsible Vendor Training course or a program accredited by the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB).

Benefits of Responsible Vendor Training

Responsible Vendor Training courses ensure that employees of adult-use and medical cannabis facilities are trained in responsible product handling and sales.

It’s critical for staff members — including budtenders, delivery associates, owners, managers, and retail and hospitality workers — to know industry best practices for safe and legal sales.

You will also learn how to avoid illegal sales, maintain health and safety standards, follow labeling and record-keeping requirements, and comply with other essential laws and regulations.

Ready to Apply for Work?

Once you’ve organized your job search, it’s time to contact cannabis businesses and submit your application. It’s also a good idea to review necessary job responsibilities at a dispensary.

If you don’t have industry experience, focus on highlighting your transferable skills and educating yourself about the industry. Research job postings and develop the skills and knowledge that hiring managers are looking for.

The path to becoming a successful associate is much easier after proper preparation, training and a willingness to seek the necessary resources to create a strong resume.

Additional Resources

This industry is one of the most rapidly evolving markets in the United States. Product demand is increasing yearly, and job opportunities are growing exponentially.

Here are some helpful resources with links to job boards and the latest information about the industry.