• Shelby McDaniel

How an I.T. Major Began to Work With Cannabis

Updated: Sep 18, 2020

I was raised in a small town in the bible belt, and as a result, received the full horror story about the Devil's Lettuce. One puff on a marijuana cigarette would get me hooked for life. And to top it all off, we had to sign a pledge to not do drugs while going through the mandated D.A.R.E program.

Needless to say, that pledge was broken.

In my junior year of high school, I joined the forensics team at my high school and began to learn the art of extemporaneous speaking. For those of you unfamiliar with extemporaneous speaking, it is an event where you are assigned a topic, usually revolving around politics and current events, and given thirty minutes to write and prep for a speech. You then give that speech to either a judge or a panel of judges and are judged on delivery and persuasiveness, among other things. At this point in time, Colorado had just legalized marijuana, so it was a huge topic for debate.

As part of my job, I had to stay updated on current events. Coming from a home with supporters on both sides of the political aisle, I knew all about bias opinions and how to find the best possible answers. So instead of relying on just media sources, I began to look at studies, doctors' opinions, and actual statistics on how marijuana affected Colorado's economy.

I was floored. I was finding information that contradicted what I had been taught not only by D.A.R.E but also by my parents (who were both in law enforcement at the time). It was like being told chocolate is poison and finding out one day it's not.

Fast forward several more years and I graduated with a college degree in Information Technology. I had decided to be smart with my career choice and had a talent for web development. However, when I began applying for entry-level jobs, I was hit with the most annoying phrase any entry-level job seeker will hear.

"You need X amount of years experience."

I was hit with this line over and over until it felt like every door had been slammed in my face. I had gone to college to open career opportunities and all of a sudden was hit with this massive issue.

According to NGPF, only 27% of college graduates would wind up working in the field they majored in. And I certainly did not find myself within that 27%.

Needing money to pay the bills, I began waitressing again. I had worked in food service through both high school and college, so finding a job in that field was simple. But like many others, I wanted the American dream. I wanted to be able to have enough in saving I wasn't stressed if an emergency happened.

When I moved to Colorado after turning 21, I got my badge to work in the medical marijuana field. I figured it would help open a few doors and give me more range while I looked for a better paying job.

I got my first job a temp trimmer for a small dispensary. I had called dozens of places, offering to do any sort of work, just to get my foot in the door. Finally, I had received an offer from a business that needed someone to start as soon as possible.

With one job under my belt, I began applying to other dispensaries in the area, including Apothecary Extracts in Colorado Springs. I went in, interviewed, and got an offer to start a part-time position.

For the next four months, I worked at the dispensary as a packager and as a manager at a local restaurant. When I was finally offered a full-time position, I took it, glad to finally have my first day off in four months. I had been working every day straight just to make ends meet.

I wound up staying with Apothecary for almost three years, a long time as far as the cannabis industry is concerned. I loved that company and my co-workers, and when I finally left for a new job opportunity in Arkansas, I was sad to go. I was one of the original twenty-five employees with the company and had established friendships with many wonderful people.

According to the Leafly 2020 Jobs Report, more than 34,700 residents make their living in the legal marijuana industry in Colorado. California supports nearly 40,000 legal cannabis jobs. Oklahoma supports just under 9,500 jobs in the legal cannabis market.

Like me, many are finding work in an industry that is proving itself to be recession-resilient when other industries turned us away. Through research and education, the cannabis industry had gained ground, including with the federal government. According to ABC News, a bill to decriminalize marijuana on a federal level is set to be voted on in September. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019, or MORE Act, is a step in the right direction to further open an industry with the potential to help millions of people who want a slice of the American Dream, just like me.

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