According to a report by Study.com: “In 2019, the Cannabis Consulting Industry saw a record $52 billion in sales and an increase of 76% in jobs. With statistics like these, it’s no wonder consultants are breaking into the industry and offering their services to help businesses and entrepreneurs keep up with the booming market.”

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AUTHOR: Heather Allman

PUBLISHER:  CANNABIS LAW REPORT

CANNABIS CONSULTING AND COACHING: A NEW ERA

PART 1: WHAT IS A CANNABIS CONSULTANT?

According to a report by Study.com: “In 2019, the Cannabis Consulting Industry saw a record $52 billion in sales and an increase of 76% in jobs. With statistics like these, it’s no wonder consultants are breaking into the industry and offering their services to help businesses and entrepreneurs keep up with the booming market.”

Almost immediately, the marketplace began filling this growing need for Cannabis Consultants. According to Mindful Cannabis Consulting:

Cannabis is complicated. Cannabis comes in many varieties, and has many potential effects, so it’s not always easy to know what will work best for you. Cannabis Guides are here to lead the way to your best cannabis options. 

Whether you are new to cannabis and need to learn the basics, or are simply trying to achieve more positive cannabis experiences, a Cannabis coach or consultant can help you on your journey.”

A. EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS:

  • Achieve a High School diploma
  • Additionally, some states require completion of a training program
  • Must be at least 21 years old
  • Complete a 20-hour training program, which covers such topics as state marijuana laws and rules, qualifying medical conditions, effects of cannabinoids and medical marijuana products
  • Complete CPR training
  • Continuing education is required for annual renewal of one’s certification

Those who practice independently, typically called Cannabis Coaches —such as Marcus Alfinez whose interview is included in Part 4 below— would benefit greatly from completing a medical marijuana consultant training program, which are offered at many schools, both in-person and online. Additionally, they might want to take some business courses to learn how to run and promote their services.

B. REQUIRED JOB SKILLS: 

  • Knowledge of state’s medical marijuana law, including stating up-to-date on changes
  • Knowledge of marijuana products, strains, terpenes, profiles, along with CBD, concentrates and edibles, that they recommend to patients.
  • Ability to recognize abuse, addiction and overuse
  • Employ personal ethics to maintain patients’ privacy
  • Retail sales and/or customer service skills will prove helpful when working one-on-one with clients as they shop for products

C. CAREER OUTLOOK AND SALARY:

As of 2018, 30 states and the District of Columbia had legalized marijuana for medical purposes. While there are no official career outlook statistics for this field, it’s reasonable to assume that job prospects for medical marijuana consultants will increase as more states continue to legalize medical marijuana.

Salary statistics for this profession are difficult to pinpoint; however, employment ads for medical marijuana consultants across several states in March 2020 typically indicated a salary of $49,000 to $69,000 a year, acccording to Glassdoor last year.

The website Medical Marijuana 411 details how anyone can accomplish Cannabis Consulting or Coaching in the position of “Budtender,” for which you can receive a Cannabis Consultant Certification, or Budtender Certification:

“As a member of a dispensary team you are one of the front-line faces of this new industry, and at times, the first person patients will encounter in their medical cannabis journey.

Dispensary owners are always in need of top talent. Consultants, sometimes referred to as ‘budtenders,’ are the team members that help patients and customers as their primary job function. Understanding your role as a communicator, the legal landscape, the basis for why cannabis is indeed medicine from a scientific perspective, and what you can and cannot say to a patient or customer is critical in your job function.

You represent the dispensary’s values and should aim to excel in providing excellent service, knowing your dispensary’s product selection, and sharing your knowledge about how to use products wisely and safely. In each interaction with a patient or patron, you turn these values into action.”

However, this career trend is not new. Back in the September 14, 2015 edition of Business Basics was a little article called Cannabis Consultants Are The “Gift” That Keeps On Giving.

Read on for more insight about this corporate and personal Cannabis job opportunity.

PART 2: WHAT ARE CANNABIS CONSULTING & CORPORATE SERVICES?

In 2020, John White’s What are Cannabis Consulting Services clearly notes: Cannabis Consulting services help new entrepreneurs and seasoned veterans grow their empire. Your brand can save time and iron out wrinkles by hiring experts to diagnose issues, create business plans, or provide education on the cannabis industry. Whether you’re looking for advice on ‘growing pains’ or setting up your first dispensary, consultants offer an experienced take on growing and selling cannabis legally.”

In 2020, CNBS: “The Definitive Online Cannabis Resource,” published What are the Types of Cannabis Consulting Firms, discussing a few ways a business cannabis consulting firm can help entrepreneurs in the following areas:

  • Operations 
  • Staffing
  • Licensing
  • Start-ups 
  • Compliance
  • Exit strategies
  • Education

In the March 15, 2019 Cannabis Industry Journal, Martha Ostergar discussed How To Choose The Right Cannabis Consultant For Your Company by explaining that “Dispensary and brand needs are specific and there is no easy, one-size-fits-all solution. Narrow down your business needs.

Covering all the bases, on November 5, 2013, Marijuana Business Daily published 5 Tips for Choosing a Marijuana Business Consultant.

PART 3: CANNABIS COACHING & PERSONAL SERVICES

A Medical Cannabis Coach is an Independent Contractor that educates the community about safe and proper dosages of cannabis, the different strains of cannabis, the Chemovar profiles, the effects, and the various delivery methods for consumption.

Medical marijuana consultants assist medical marijuana patients in choosing products that will best treat their conditions. They explain potential benefits and risks of various medical marijuana products and show clients how to properly use and store those products.

It’s important to note that medical marijuana coaches are not medical practitioners; they cannot diagnose conditions nor provide medical advice.

Medical marijuana coaches might offer their services independently or be employed by a medical marijuana dispensary.

A personal, educational Cannabis Coach can help clients by discussing ailments before recommending the proper medicine. Medical coaches suggest cannabis use plans, help with strain selection, and provide dosage tracking.

Hundreds of different strains are often used to treat thousands of different conditions. It’s important to know which strains give patients the desired results and relief.

Additionally, cannabis coaches give insight and premium education on the plant itself, so a client can understand why medical marijuana is a powerful healing tool. Often, these coaches or consultants help businesses operate in states where marijuana isn’t legal for recreational consumption. These firms or individuals often provide insight into state rules and regulations on operating a legal medical marijuana dispensary.

A medical cannabis consultant will often help individuals secure a personal medicinal prescription, supporting patients with access to medicinal cannabis for the treatment of whatever condition they suffer from.

“In 2013, between 128 and 232 million people used marijuana. That’s a staggering 2.6-4.9% of the global population. Traction is only building as several countries have legalized cannabis for recreational and medical use. In the United States alone, this industry is worth billions and counting.”

These statistics paint a picture of why consultants are offering their services. In 2019, there was $52 billion in sales partnered with a 76% increase in jobs. Legal changes, demand, and a unique product are driving the need for education and hands-on assistance for entrepreneurs everywhere. And most likely, the majority of consumers don’t know how to use cannabis safely and effectively.”

Read on for my interview with a Personal Cannabis Coach & Educator in Florida.

PART 4: SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH PERSONAL CANNABIS COACH, MARCUS ALFINEZ

As Ezra Parzybok writes in his title, Cannabis Consulting: Helping Patients, Parents, and Practitioners Understand Medical Marijuana, As the movement for legalization of marijuana spreads across the country, it is important to weigh the possible benefits and pitfalls of cannabis use. Cannabis Consulting is both a handbook and a report from the front lines of medical marijuana use.”

One of those unique individuals on the front lines who holds private or group discussions or coaching sessions with anyone, anytime, anyplace about cannabis use is the gentleman below; let’s meet him and find out more about what he does in his role as Cannabis Coach. 

Cannabis Law Report: Tell me who you are and about yourself and background.

MA:My name is Marcus Alfinez and I go by Manny. I am married and have two amazing teenage children. I served just over 20 years in the Army and retired as a Sergeant First Class. I enjoy sharing information and collaborating with others to learn about Cannabis. I am certified via the Trichome Institute as a Level 1 Interpener (Sommelier), Cannabis Consultant, and Cannabis Products & Sales certified.”

CLR: How, when and why exactly did you make the official transition or jump to the cannabis space?

MA:Since retiring in 2018 I was not too sure about what to do. I started off delivering water with Kentwood Springs. That did not last too long as carrying 5G bottles of water for the better part of a day was not conducive to my medical wellbeing. I ended up landing a job with Surterra Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary.

I immediately fell in love with the industry and the science behind cannabis. More importantly, the impact my passing of cannabis knowledge to others had. People are experiencing a better quality of life because of the pride I take in being a cannabis coach. Actually doing the research to find out the “how & why” people experience the effects they do or lack thereof.”

CLR: How did your background and skills transition into cannabis? 

MA: “After being in the military and being heavily regulated, it was an easy transition to being a budtender and working for a dispensary. My research & development skills I have acquired while in the military has served me greatly as I am determined to continue my education within cannabis.”

CLR: What interests you about cannabis the most? Why do you do this? 

MA: “I love how there are so many chemovars based off of so many genotypes that develop different types of seeds. I love that I can translate that into lay terms and when I do, how happy a person is to make sense of how and/or why cannabis is working for them. If it is not working, they now understand how to correct it. There is a certain satisfaction in seeing a person(s) quality of life improve.”

CLR: Explain what you do in the Florida Cannabis space and how it can benefit me?

MA:I offer friendly and easy to understand discussions about cannabis currently at no cost. Anything from how to get started to how to understand why a regiment is no longer working. This includes different methods of administration and how to administer. This benefits consumers as I simply assist a person navigate cannabis which most likely helps find relief faster and in turns saves potentially thousands of dollars.”

CLR: Can I afford you? Can anyone schedule a discussion?

MA: “At this time all discussions are free. I do not consult as I am not a medical professional as the government sees it. Anyone, to include significant others and persons of influence, may schedule a discussion with me. The more the better as more questions tend to be asked. I share opinions and make solicited suggestions during our conversations. Discussions may become personal and/or private in nature.”

CLR: What is your mission statement or philosophy?

MA:My philosophy is simple. The sooner you take your health and well-being seriously and partake in your treatment plans, the sooner you will understand what you require for better quality of life. That does not necessarily mean medication.”

CLR: What do you offer that is unique, or what distinguishes you from 19 other people?

MA:First and foremost, I don’t cost you anything but time. I am well-versed in Cannabis and tailor the discussion to your needs. I will ask probing or investigative questions to better understand what you actually require or to assess your personal goals. The worst thing a Cannabis Coach can do is dump masses of information on a cannabis naïve consumer. ‘Low & slow is the best way to go’ —that means we will likely meet more than once. Maybe even as many as 4-5 times a week. Will it be expensive? I assure everyone that once pricing is involved, it will be affordable and save you potentially hundreds in the long run.”

CLR: What is your ideal approach? Example or Walk me through what happens in a typical consultation.

MA:First thing in a discussion is for everyone to be comfortable. 

  • Introductions are made and I explain who I am and what I do. There are no hidden agendas and no compensation from third parties swaying me in any particular direction.
  • It is important to have any persons of influence on your health present so that they can also understand the process. 
  • Next, I will proceed to ask ‘What are you looking to get out Cannabis?’ Some find it easier to list off their diagnoses. When that happens, I ask follow-up questions so that I am sure I understand the symptoms or ailments your diagnoses cause.
  • We will then mutually discuss all the possible routes of cannabis that are viable for you as an individual.
  • At the end of the discussion, I like to set up at least one follow-up discussion to ensure things are going well.”

CLR: How do you ensure privacy?

MA: “The only records kept are the appointment records. Appointment records are kept only to assist in building rewards, and eventually, to set up a referral program as my business grows.”

CLR: How do you remain patient-centric?

MA:I ensure clear understanding that we are having a discussion and it is not a consultation. By scheduling the appointment, the consumer agrees to having a discussion and that all information being discussed is voluntary, not recorded in any way, and not to replace the advice of a medical professional. They also are made aware of HIPAA privacy rules.”

CLR: This is an industry that has grown primarily off consumer demand and consumer results.What consumer demand and behavior do you see trending currently in Florida, and do you have any predictions for Future trends?

MA: “Patients are starting to become more aware of what’s behind the curtains of the cannabis puppet show. That terpenes and cannabinoid content are, in fact, very important to predicting the effect of the consumed cannabis. Consumers are also becoming more aware of quality cannabis and trichome density. As cannabis becomes recreational, I can foresee a niche market of Cannabis Aficionados.”

CLR: Areas for improvement or specific changes would you like to see in the state of Florida?

MA: “I would like to see standardized training for dispensary employees, particularly budtenders. I would like to see the dispensaries feel more like pharmacies. I feel there needs to be more liability in regard to the information that budtenders give to consumers. Also, third-party testing needs to be more specific to quality, as well as to checking for harmful metals, pesticides, etc.”

CLR: What are your short term goals, or your immediate plans?

MA:My immediate plan is to get my business up, running, and profitable, so that I can continue to provide this valuable service to anyone interested in learning more about cannabis and how it can help them.”

CLR: What are your long term goals, or your future plans?

MA:My long term goals are to affect change within the cannabis industry, particularly concerning standardized training as I mentioned above.”

CLR: What one thing you do in your line of work that makes the most impact?

MA: “I ensure the discussion is mutually beneficial. I help the consumer: learn about cannabis and how to shop for effect rather than solely by potency numbers and percentages— the main selling point for most novice consumers. And I explain how, why, and which cannabis numbers are important.”

CLR: What mark or impact do you want to make in the cannabis space?

MA: “Through helping others with their cannabis use , I want to show others exactly how beneficial cannabis can be. To me, this means educating others so that they become passionate themselves, and then proceed to educate others properly as well. As my clients learn and grow, maybe they will even come back and educate me about some things relating to cannabis that they have discovered or realized on their individual cannabis journey.”

CLR: What is the best piece of advice you can offer to individuals concerning cannabis?

MA: “Do some research before diving in. Ask around. Visit dispensaries before actually purchasing. Listen to your physician’s recommendations. Go in with an open mind, even if you’re a cannabis veteran.”

CLR: Do you think hemp and cannabis recycling, renewability, and sustainability solutions should be a required component of any state’s regulatory framework?

MA: “I absolutely do. But because cannabis is a Schedule 1 Drug, such a task is difficult to accomplish successfully.”

CLR: Do you see a future collaboration between the hemp and cannabis programs? 

MA: “I hope so. Particularly since the main difference is less than .5%. I think there are quite a few laws and regulations concerning this small distinction of THC content that need to be examined and restructured. Also, widespread education: there needs to be a better understanding of the difference between broad spectrum hemp, full spectrum hemp, and cannabis.”

PART 5: APPENDIX— NEED A CAREER CHANGE? HERE ARE 16 JOBS IN THE MARIJUANA INDUSTRY

Back on May 9, 2018, Sam Becker published this informative and comprehensive article; I’ll close with one notable excerpt:

Marijuana is legal for recreational use in several states now, and tens of thousands of jobs have been created. Every industry has Consultants, and they can provide some very valuable insight. For growing specialists who don’t want a farm of their own, consulting can be very lucrative.

Also, consultants can help entrepreneurs get their businesses off the launching pad, and also help identify areas for growth and expansion. Marketing consultants can also assist cannabis startups get their brands off the ground, and create a real identity for many businesses in the industry.”

If you learn and grow your cannabis knowledge diligently, anyone can specialize and train to become a Cannabis Consultant or Cannabis Coach working for a dispensary, or like Marcus Alfinez, working for yourself helping others.