The master extractor at Acme Elixirs, a producer of THC and CBD chews and vape pens, earns $250,000 a year, said founder and CEO Peter Pietrangeli. But he said that even with that level of pay it’s hard to recruit and keep these workers “because after a while they’ll get the funding to build their own labs.”
Becoming a master extractor requires a PhD in biochemistry with a background in engineering, which means there’s a small pool.
“This is a rat race for talent,” said Silverstein.
He said job seekers with degrees in botany, chemistry or pharmacology are the next generation of master growers and lab directors. Like master extractors, lab directors and master growers can earn big dollars.
“I know some master growers who make more than $200,000. They’re valuable,” said William Simpson, CEO of Golden Leaf Holdings, an Oregon-based chain of dispensaries, cannabis farms and manufacturers. “That is going to be a very sought after, difficult position.”
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Elad Spiegel, director of cultivation and breeding for Golden Leaf, said his annual pay is $120,000. He has a bachelor’s in plant science from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and started working in the cannabis industry in his native Israel before joining Golden Leaf in 2015.
Yagielo of Hemp Staff said entry level pay for master growers is typically $40,000 a year for horticulturalists, or $60,000 for botanists, but pay can grow to $120,000 within three years.
He said that pharmacologists might start at $40,000 managing a dispensary but they could eventually make $100,000 by managing several for a dispensary chain.
But the people who make the most money in the industry aren’t the ones who are getting hired; they’re the ones creating the jobs.
Being an entrepreneur requires a lot more risk than getting a job, especially in an industry that’s considered illegal by the federal government. But the pay-off, if it all works out, could be lucrative.
“The best paying job?” said Simpson. “Go get a business degree and start your own company.”