How Do Cannabis Industry Salaries Stack Up Against Comparable Industries?

How Do Cannabis Industry Salaries Stack Up Against Comparable Industries?

As a whole, the cannabis industry is already huge. However, as states continue to legalize cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use, analysts expect the market to continue to grow. According to Forbes, in 2018 alone, the cannabis industry brought in nearly $10 billion in sales while also generating millions more in tax revenue for states where cannabis is legal.

Marijuana Business Magazine conducted a recent salary survey, culling data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, and found that the cannabis industry, on average, pays at least as well as similar positions at companies in comparable industries. Regardless of the industry, payroll is usually a company’s biggest expense, and compensation can vary dramatically by state, based on the cost of living and the age of the cannabis market.

The data shows that cannabis salaries are higher on the East Coast than their counterparts on the West Coast — with Maryland and Florida consistently offering higher wages than others. Trends indicate that cannabis industry salaries will continue to face upward pressure as legalization spreads across the United States, but in states with mature markets and a surplus of product (like the current oversupply issue in Oregon), salaries are starting to plateau.

Apples to apples, when comparing the cannabis industry to other similar industries, lower-skilled and lower-paid positions compensate at a slightly higher rate than their mainstream equivalents. However, the current cannabis labor market favors highly skilled workers.

Notwithstanding that general comparison, let’s have a more detailed look into how cannabis salaries compare to their equivalent in similar industries. Data researchers at Marijuana Business Daily found that cannabis industry salaries grew by more than 16 percent between August 2017 and August 2018, and that, generally speaking, six-figure positions are on the rise. The statistics and figures are provided by the Bureau of Labor and Industries and are based on information from publicly traded companies. The data spans eight employment categories.

CEO: The salary range for a Chief Executive Officer at a cannabis company is $285,113 – $528,090. The national estimate for a CEO salary is $196,050. Cannabis CEOs earn around $89,000 more than the national average for mainstream CEOs in the United States. To compare, CEO’s in the food manufacturing industry earn on average $207,710 and those in the agricultural industry earn around $198,770 annually.

Dispensary Managers: Wages are very dependent on the state. Dispensary managers in Maryland ($75,500 annually) and Massachusetts make more than those in California, Colorado, Illinois and Oregon ($37,500 annually). On average, employees in this category tend to make around $11,000 more than similar positions as food service managers. To compare, liquor store managers make on average $50,000 annually.

Master Extractors: Those employees in California and North Carolina are paid more than their counterparts in Colorado and Pennsylvania, and those specializing in hemp earn on average $120,000 annually in North Carolina. The salary cap for those in this position is $70,000 in Colorado. For reference, a chemist in another industry makes around $82,000 per year.

Master Cultivators: Employee salaries for this position range from $120,000 to $150,000 annually in Massachusetts, almost double what the earning potential is for employees in Alaska. In the mainstream agricultural industry, farm managers earn approximately $80,320 annually.

Edibles Producer: This segment pays about $3,000 less annually (employees earn on average $46,460 per year) than chefs and lead cooks receive in the foodservice industry. In comparison, general food processors earn around $29,070 per year and bakers tend to make approximately $27,920 annually.

Budtenders: With an average hourly wage range of $10 – $14 per hour, employees in this position earn on average $5,980 more per year than a bartender and $4,780 more than a retail salesperson. The average salary for this position is $32,240. Those seeking higher wages should consider work in California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland or Massachusetts — they pay higher than similar companies in Arizona, Michigan, and Oregon.

Trimmers: The best-paid trimmer positions are in Colorado, with hourly wages reaching up to $16 per hour. In a three-month span, experienced trimmers in Colorado can earn around $2000 more than their counterparts in Washington. On average, trimmers make $29,667 annually, and these positions don’t require a degree.

Security Workers: Those providing security services in the cannabis industry make on average $34,320 per year. To compare, security workers in the casino industry make $27,162 annually and earn around $30,730 for mainstream security services.

As the cannabis market calms and normalizes, companies are starting to trim costs through layoffs, swapping out their highest earning senior employees with lower-paid junior staff. On the flip side, cannabis companies on the East Coast, in need of experienced industry workers, are pulling West Coast industry professionals away with higher wages than they would otherwise earn in Oregon or Washington, for example.

About Brian Ellis

With 6 years' experience in business journalism, Brian is the person we turn to for anything related to the business of cannabis. His news coverage spans topics including marijuana business and finance. Brian's work features on, and