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Looking to get a job in Michigan’s cannabis industry? This nonprofit can help.

Marijuana plant
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 2008.

Michigan just marked its first full year of legal recreational marijuana sales. As the cannabis business continues to grow in the state, some Michiganders are wondering: how can I get a job in this booming industry?[Get Stateside on your phone: subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts today.]

A group in West Michigan is offering free training and advice for people hoping to find work in the marijuana business. Matt Hoffman, founder and chairman of the Grand Rapids-based nonprofit Our Cannabis, says that just like any industry, the cannabis field offers a variety of job opportunities.

“It's not just the executive team and the directors and then the people that are boots on the ground. It's all the specialisms in between,” Hoffman said. “People that can help with environmental impact, product efficiencies, compliance, security. When you think about cannabis, think about every other industry.”

Hoffman says he’s worked in the cannabis industry for 11 years now, after he and some of his family members started a “cannabusiness” in the early days of the state’s medical marijuana program. He says a lot’s changed since then, and interest in getting involved in the industry has been expanding steadily.

A few years ago, Hoffman participated in a cannabis job fair in Grand Rapids. Even then, he says, the turnout was big.

“In a two-hour period on a weekday, we had 763 people show up to a room that can hold 99 people,” he said. “And the demand has only grown.”

Michigan voters approved recreational marijuana use back in 2018. But Hoffman says there are still plenty of people who don’t have access to the industry, as well as people who are incarcerated or face criminal charges for involvement in a business that’s now legalized in the state.

“We still have people that are locked up. We still have people that are facing charges. We still have families that are destroyed by this overwhelmingly positive opportunity,” he said.

The state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) reports that almost 80% of the people in federal prison — and almost 60% of those in state prison — for drug offenses are Black or Latino. Meanwhile, the agency says, of Michigan’s recreational marijuana business owners, only 3.8% are Black or African American, and only 1.5% are Latino. MRA’s Racial Equity Advisory Workgroup has recommended new regulation in Michigan in an effort to make the industry more equitable.

Hoffman says Our Cannabis advises people with a wide range of experiences and backgrounds, from those starting a second career to people who are entering the job market for the first time. He adds that the nonprofit aims to help everyone seeking work in the cannabis industry, including people who have been incarcerated or have an arrest or conviction on record.

“If somebody has been adversely affected by the war on drugs, then we most certainly want to help them,” he said. “So it's an open-door policy to everybody.”

Hoffman says that amid the COVID-19 pandemic — when many small businesses in other industries couldn’t survive — there’s been a hiring boom in the marijuana business. He says it got a boost when states where marijuana was legal designated the industry as essential.

“That marks a tipping point, where not too long ago, states were doing whatever they could to abolish cannabusinesses and to stop the movement of the industry,” he said. “Now we're seeing, given the choice between putting a knife or a dagger in the heart of a new cannabis economy, instead, they shielded it. And what that's done is it transformed the industry overnight. It made people more confident in working in the industry, and it created more opportunities.”

Details about how to find work in the marijuana industry and information about signing up for free classes is available at Our Cannabis’ website.

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Nell Ovitt.

Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
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