Professionals Leave Corporate Jobs To Work In Marijuana Industry

When marijuana began to be legalized in many states across the U.S., many expected significant changes in the legal sphere, as well as in business, industry, and society itself. This wasn’t far off the mark, as the legalization of marijuana soon opened up a number of business and employment opportunities that were non-existent only a few years before. Given the increasing prominence of the marijuana issue, it was hardly surprising that its legalization would bring about many changes in business and commerce.

legalization of marijuana opened employment opportunities

But one development that probably not as many foresaw was the migration of professionals from the frenetic, high-powered corporate world to the decidedly less cutthroat environment of the fledgling marijuana industry. While there is plenty of competition in the legal marijuana business to be sure, the change is quite a significant one for those who have turned away from the corporate offices to various industries within the marijuana field.

One such professional is Derek Peterson, who up until 2010 was a vice president at Morgan Stanley. As a Wall Street executive, Peterson was primarily involved in the management of a $100 million fund. After being fired from his position because of his part-time involvement in the marijuana business, the ex-VP set about staking out his own claim in the cannabis playing field.

Apart from running his own dispensary, Peterson is now also CEO of Terra Technology, a company that sells a range of hydroponic equipment to marijuana cultivators all over the country. As drastic as his shift into the marijuana industry may have seemed, Peterson now says that the business is “working out”.

For Peterson, the decision to shift to marijuana was as much about business as it was a matter of principle. As a Wall Street exec, he was not always comfortable about the products that he supplied to the market. Although marijuana is still considered an illegal substance under federal law, Peterson ironically feels “way better” about selling it to the public.

Of course, there is immense potential in the marijuana trade as well. It is in fact estimated that the legal marijuana industry will generate 1.5 billion in revenue in 2014. Furthermore, the industry is expected to be even more profitable as more and more states legal marijuana for medical and recreational purposes.

Peterson is only one of an increasing number of professionals who have eschewed the corporate world for the legal marijuana trade. Former director of social media at Petco Katherine Smith is another, and her decision to enter the marijuana business was borne of a goal to help people who have a legitimate need for the drug. Now the chief marketing officer of WeedMaps, Smith focuses most of her time and effort in reviewing marijuana dispensaries.

Still others have joined the marijuana industry for the simple reasons that they like pot. This is the case with Al Olson, who in August 2014 announced that he was resigning as senior editor at NBC News in order to work for as managing editor. As legalization takes hold all over the United States, the marijuana industry may just see an increase in the number of corporate professionals deciding to make the shift as Peterson, Smith, and Olson have.

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