Skills and Education Needed for Advancing the Cannabis Industry

Written by Marguerite Arnold

How big and bad the cannabis industry is going to be over the next five to ten years is a matter, largely, still of conjecture. But one thing is for sure — the industry is growing and will need highly skilled people with all sorts of aptitudes.

Here are a few of the skills that are increasingly in demand.

Medical doctors who also have a background in cannabinoid medicine are still a rare breed everywhere. The medical profession’s reluctance to embrace cannabinoid science is an issue that continues to limit medical applications and generate demand for specialists.

Research on cannabinoids in food and medicine is already underway globally, and skilled researchers are in high demand. Global research hotspots include Israel, Canada, and countries throughout Europe. Despite federal hurdles to funding, several universities in the United States now host cannabis research centers.

Beyond research and development, extraction facilities and 3rd-party testing labs look for staffing that has bachelors and graduate degrees in disciplines like analytical chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, or biology.

Even more, statisticians and chemometricians can help further product manufacturers understand the complexities between product chemistries as has been demonstrated in the scientific literature. This can result in some sense of standardization between a chemovar and downstream product line.

Regulatory and Certification Experts
In legal cannabis markets, every step of the production process must be certified and/or remain compliant as regionally, nationally, and/or internationally defined. Those who understand the entire cannabis compliance universe and can guide companies through the red tape are in demand.

The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) encourages a pivotal role for pharmacists as medical cannabis counselors and safeguards of public health, especially given that more private insurers in Canada are covering medical cannabis. [1] The International Society of Cannabis Pharmacists (ISCPh) points out that the role of the cannabis pharmacist is growing rapidly with legalization of medical markets.

Public Relations and Communications Mavens
The issues related to cannabis as a plant are huge. So is the need for people who also understand digital networking, search engine optimization, and all forms of effective marketing. The cannabis industry is like most others, beyond its quirks. Digital media and communication skills are more needed than ever before to reverse stigmas and educate the public.

Get Out Your Passport
“Going East” (so far) has never been more possible. Getting a job in an international cannabis market is now a possibility. However, beyond being certified and experienced from your market of national origin, be prepared for a steep learning curve as you acclimate to your new culture (from the language to the local customs), including differences within the geography’s cannabis culture.

Luckily, having an advanced science degree and a medical or scientific speciality is one of the easiest ways to immigrate.

Photo credit: LexScope on Unsplash


  1. Dattani S, Mohr H. “Pharmacists’ Role in Cannabis Dispensing and Counselling.” Canadian Pharmacists Journal, 152, no.1, 2018, pp.14-15, doi:10.1177/1715163518813314. Impact Factor: N/A; Times Cited: 1

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Marguerite Arnold

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