The rapidly developing cannabis industry in the United States is by all standards still in its youth. If you start counting in 1996, which is when the Compassionate Use Act legalized cannabis for patients with chronic pain, the industry is only in its mid-20s. In 2020 alone, when the economy was circling the drain and businesses were going belly up left and right, the cannabis industry took in a staggering $17.5 billion in sales and saw a booming increase of 46% over the previous year. Not bad for a 25-year-old!
If the thought of getting into an industry that’s still relatively young and growing exponentially piques your interest, now is the perfect time. Though there are many jobs to choose from, in this blog we’ll focus on exploring the career of a cannabis extraction technician.
What’s a cannabis extraction technician?
While the fancy title of cannabis extraction technician sounds a little bombastic, it is indeed very much a title that requires a considerable amount of training and knowledge. A quick search on Indeed gives you a succinct description of what exactly these technicians do in the cannabis industry. Cannabis extraction technicians “safely separate cannabis chemical compounds called cannabinoid-rich trichomes from cannabis flowers. They purify these compounds for companies to use in a variety of cannabis products.”
How do I become one?
The cannabis industry is constantly evolving and as such, the requirements necessary to be an extraction technician are also evolving. While it’s possible to just have a high school diploma to become one, it is increasingly preferred by many employers that prospective candidates have at least a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Laboratory Technology, Phytobiology, or similar fields. For those who are still in college, it’s not unheard of to work as a technician while earning your degree.
In states where cultivation is legal, you must be at least 21 years of age in order to work in the cannabis industry in any capacity, although you will always want to check your state and local laws just to be on the safe side. Depending on which state you live in, you may have to pass a background check, get registered, and/or have a certain license.
More and more places are offering specialized training for a cannabis extraction certificate, and now there are even some colleges that offer purses in cannabis. For example, in June 2021, Northern New Mexico College began offering an online class called “The Cannabis Establishment Technician Course.”
What do extraction technicians do all day?
An extraction technician's skills lie somewhere along the spectrum between art and science. If you were to apply for the position at CULTA, some typical responsibilities and duties include:
- Preparation of cannabis flower for extraction, including but not limited to logging the information of each batch, destemming and breaking down frozen biomass.
- Filling the extraction equipment with solvent.
- Inspecting machinery or equipment for operational integrity to ensure that the instrument and receiving vessels are clean and free from residual plant matter from the previous match.
- Performing a visual inspection of raw plant material to ensure that only the highest quality flower is used.
- Performing quality checks on the finished cannabis products.
- Preventing cross contamination and manufacturing fumes from being incorporated into the extracted substances.
- Accurately weighing and recording all products in our inventory tracking system.
Unlike the typical budtender, whose job is to be on the ground interacting with customers face-to-face, the technician's role is very much behind the scenes. Still, it’s extremely important.
Outside of the above job duties and responsibilities, it would benefit the extraction technician to have an in-depth knowledge of cannabis as a whole, as well the ability to keep up with new and innovative techniques. Attention to detail, organizational skills, lab skills, and the ability to work both independently and as part of a team are the hallmark traits of a top-tier extraction technician.
So what's the outlook?
According to the website Merry Jane, all the education and training pay off pretty well. The job growth is fueled by the popularity of extracts -- in 2018, extracts outsold flower for the first time in California, and some are predicting that it will outsell flower nationally by 2022. The industry is also evolving as it propels into the future economy, so entering the market early will give anyone stepping into the “cannabusiness” an incredible boost.
So where do I find these jobs?
The cannabis industry has moved out of the gray areas in the law and is right at the forefront of our evolving economy. Now, to find out who is hiring, all you have to do is jump on the internet and search career sites like LinkedIn and ZipRecruiter. There are even career search sites like Vangst that are specifically dedicated to jobs in the cannabis industry.
So what are you waiting for? There could be a career out here for you. Browse our open positions today. To learn more about other positions in the industry, read our career spotlights on budtenders and master growers.