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This article was published on July 13, 2018

Techies leave the likes of Apple and Amazon for greener pastures in the cannabis industry

Techies leave the likes of Apple and Amazon for greener pastures in the cannabis industry
Tristan Greene
Story by

Tristan Greene

Editor, Neural by TNW

Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: He/him

Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have all suffered black eyes in the media as reports each were individually involved in dubious government projects have unfolded. If you’re a tech worker who is embarrassed to be seen in such amoral company, we’ve got a suggestion: consider selling weed instead.

When California legalized recreational adult cannabis use, experts predicted a market bonanza. And, so far, they’re not wrong: the US cannabis market is expected to be worth over $25 billion by 2021 – more than video games. In order to make those ‘big cannabis’ dreams come true, startups are turning to a tried-and-true source for talent: Silicon Valley.

A recent report from LA Times reveals employees from many big tech outfits, including Apple, Electronic Arts, and even Nintendo have crossed over to the cannabis industry.

There’s a few good reasons for this, with money being chief among them. But there’s also cannabis culture and the opportunity to work in in a field that, for all appearances, is experiencing the same kind of explosive growth that the tech sector went through in the early 2000’s.

Despite the federal government’s confounding approach to cannabis regulation – which appears to waver between hands-off and militant, depending on what mood Attorney General Jeff Sessions is in – states in which weed has been decriminalized have made a lot of money without seeing the increase in crime that pot haters predicted.

A former product manager for Amazon and head of platform for Yelp, Natasha Pecor told LA Times she hadn’t considered the transition until cannabis was legalized in her home state of Washington, then she caught a case of FOMO:

I saw this huge shift. I never thought it would happen in my lifetime, and I knew I just wouldn’t forgive myself if I wasn’t part of it.

The company Pecor is with now, Eaze, promises cannabis deliveries in less than an hour. It wasn’t too long ago the only people delivering weed in this country were drug dealers, now they’re legitimate workers providing a service that’s in high demand.

But you don’t have to get your hands sticky to work in the cannabis industry. We talked to Karson Humiston, Founder & CEO of Vangst – a company we called the of weed – about the opportunities for tech workers to crossover, she says:

The ancillary sector of the cannabis industry is the fastest growing sector of the cannabis industry and is consistently pulling top talent from Silicon Valley to meet its ever-growing needs. Ancillary cannabis businesses are businesses that do not directly touch or sell cannabis, however, they service cannabis businesses. Amongst the ancillary sector, technology is growing extremely quickly.

The most in demand positions in cannabis technology are developers, customer service representatives, and outside sales reps. Our client, Baker Technologies, hired more than 15 developers last quarter to continue to create the best technology products to better service cannabis business.

As cannabis technology companies gain traction, the need for support for their clients expands, thus a demand for customer service representatives. The most in demand job in cannabis tech is outside sales representatives, as cannabis technology companies need feet on the ground selling their technology to cannabis businesses. This sales rep expertise is often drawn from The Valley because of the strong background in innovative technology they bring to the industry. We have found a lot of success placing people with SAS experience at cannabis tech companies.

We believe the cannabis technology sector will continue to rapidly expand and positions will continue to become available, drawing largely from other technology industries to fill in the gaps.

The cannabis industry is legitimate and the financial returns prove it. Despite the fact that Congress is led by the GOP, which as a group is anti-cannabis, the industry’s billions of dollars in revenue do a lot to assuage fears that Trump’s administration will undo the gains that have been made.

Cannabis companies aren’t out of the woods yet, but the future looks bright and things have improved significantly since DEA raids on legal businesses in California were a daily occurrence.

Maybe it’s time to put your technology skills to use making the world a happier, hungrier, sleepier place.

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