Video Duration: 22:18

Welcome to the Cannabis Workforce Initiative cannabis career exploration course. My name is David Serrano, I’m the CWI project manager and your guide to industry jobs and best practices. This course is intended to be a high-level overview of the regulated cannabis industry, and the various jobs that will be available to New York workers. It’s important to note that this course could never be a substitute for on-the-job training, or an academic approach to certification and/or credentialing. Although there are a number of entry level jobs in the cannabis industry that require no degrees or certifications, we encourage viewers to consider a certificate or degree path from one of our network educators. Having a degree or certificate can oftentimes make your resume more competitive, and give you confidence in your future role. You can find a growing list of partners at 

This presentation, Cannabis Industry Overview, is brought to you by the Cannabis Workforce Initiative (CWI). 

The New York State Cannabis Workforce Initiative is a collaboration between the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University and the New York Workforce Development Institute. Our mission is to promote and support social equity in the adult-use cannabis market, by providing quality workforce development and legal education. Our work, supported by a state budget appropriation, prioritizes diversity, equity, and quality jobs in the emerging cannabis industry. We do this through skills training, entrepreneurism services, workforce supports, legal education for employees and employers, and the development of high-road career pathways. 

Together, we’re laying the groundwork to create tens of thousands of new jobs in this emerging industry. We want to help individuals explore the multiple career pathways — from seed to sale. Whether it’s cultivation, testing, operations, or entrepreneurism, there are multiple pathways into this industry. That’s why education and training will be key to ensuring your success! 

After years of advocacy, New York State passed legislation that will lead to a statewide market for adult-use cannabis, also known as “the regulated cannabis-supply chain.” This legislation—known as the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA)—has wide-reaching implications for workforce development programs and policy. Among them, MRTA prioritizes those harmed by the prohibition of cannabis by establishing a goal to award 50% of business licenses to social equity candidates. In addition, the MRTA requires that a licensed applicant must enter into a labor peace agreement (LPA) with a bona-fide labor organization. An LPA is a contract between an employer and a union, in which the employer agrees to be neutral during a union organizing campaign and not interfere with union organizing. This goal puts New York at or near the head of the pack in terms of state-level, restorative justice cannabis policy. 

Although numerous States, including New York, have legalized the use of cannabis for either medicinal or adult use, the status of cannabis as a controlled substance under Federal law has, for the most part, not changed. 

The classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance is pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act. 

Under the terms of the Act, as a Schedule I drug, cannabis is defined as having “a high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical use in treatment,” and “a lack of accepted safety for use.” 

The classification of cannabis under Federal law has a number of important consequences. The classification as a Schedule I substance involves significant penalties for those who illegally manufacture, distribute or possess the drug. 

From the moment governments all over the world began to prohibit and criminalize cannabis, farmers everywhere were forced to cultivate and sell cannabis discreetly. This market is known as the legacy market. In cases where remote land was not available, cultivation was done indoors, in the shadows of roofs and walls, which meant growers needed to simulate sunshine, import dirt, nutrients, microorganisms, and even bugs. 

Major efforts and innovations were developed to give the cannabis plant everything it needed to thrive, replicate and/or procreate. In other words, the prohibition of cannabis gave way to a major revolution in agricultural affairs. This includes innovations in specialty indoor lighting, hydroponic methodologies and other soil alternatives, synthetic nutrients, indoor cultivation power and water practices, precision heating and cooling, as well as air sanitation and odor filtration. Arguably, the biggest accomplishment the legacy market has had on the emergent cannabis industry is the preservation of the cannabis plant itself, along with its various strains. 

However, there are still people in the U.S. and around the world who are serving prison sentences, and others that still take significant risk of being imprisoned, for participating in the legacy market.  In addition, other negative side effects of prohibition include the production of unregulated carbon emissions, chemical waste, plastic waste, and water waste. Also, there are no safeguards in the legacy market to keep cannabis from being sold to minors.  Furthermore, products that are unchecked by labs pose a serious health risk to consumers, especially if the products have mold and/or mildew. Additionally, none of these businesses pay taxes. 

There are a number of positive impacts that legalization will have on the cannabis industry and the culture that supports it. A big one is that legalization offers regulatory support and oversight. With regulatory oversight, taxpayers can hold manufacturers accountable to ensure worker, consumer, and community safety. In the cannabis industry, quality assurance and control are regulated through manufacturing and testing standards, inspections, and licensing control. 

Also, this means agencies and new governmental departments are created. They too employ people from all walks of life. These jobs range from field inspectors and financial support, to compliance experts. These roles are designed to be objective checks and balances for private industry, to ensure public safety and market growth. 

Another major positive impact legalization has on our community is the direct investments in people and infrastructure. This means new jobs and increased real estate values. The state-licensed cannabis industry added over 100,000 new jobs in 2021 and now employs over 428,000 full-time workers, according to data compiled by and Whitney Economics. This does not include the ancillary industries workforce, which is also seeing major growth alongside the direct supply chain. 

In order to support such fast-paced workforce growth, academic institutions and community-based organizations are expanding their offerings and workforce, to support new educational opportunities. In other words, there are now new jobs opening in this growing industry. In fact, when the Cannabis Workforce Initiative was created in 2019, my role became one of those new jobs. 

Furthermore, legalization means increased infrastructure and safety features in neighborhoods that host cannabis businesses. Features like street lights, upgraded roads, resources for schools, and security personnel. This all leads to safer communities and even more jobs.

Another positive impact of legalization is increased product development and innovation. As the market matures, consumers can expect a variety of new and safer product offerings. Companies all over the world are trying to carve out their competitive advantages by offering products that deliver very specific benefits, consistency, and precise dosing. This increase in competition will drive products to market, helping to meet consumer demand.

And lastly, another oftentimes understated impact from the regulated cannabis industry is the economic benefits this culture has on everyday society and small businesses.
Between social and private consumption, we see the creation of activities like festivals, fancy cannabis dinners, and other groups coming together. The culture that surrounds the cannabis industry has a major impact on various business segments. The beneficiaries range from hotels, restaurants, supply and grocery stores, to entertainment and nightlife industries, as well as delivery and ride-sharing industries. There are also the trade workers who are tasked with building and maintaining cannabis industry facilities.

Scene 10: An Ecosystem Overview (Seed to sale video sequence)

Now, finally, the heartbeat of the cannabis industry, the regulated cannabis supply chain. This is where and how. Please refer to the video.

And this is just the start. 

As you explore the various opportunities in this nascent industry, a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Entry-level jobs do not require previous experience or trainings. Cannabis companies are eager to train internally. Don’t be afraid to apply, you might be pleasantly surprised.  
  • There are a number of colleges and community-based organizations lining up to support you in your transition to the newly regulated cannabis industry.  
  • Lastly, the benefit of getting in on the ground floor today is that leadership positions will be more accessible over the next decade. This is truer now than ever before, and there is not likely to be another moment like this in the future of the cannabis industry.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for more content that showcases specific job opportunities, as well as the basic day-to-day responsibilities of these jobs.

Next-up “The Cannabis Plant Overview.”