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home : news : north central illinois   May 24, 2016

7/29/2014 10:49:00 AM
Would you work in a licensed pot greenhouse?

As medical marijuana rushes into Illinois, this industry is poised to draw in trained professionals such as horticulturists and force jobseekers to weigh the opportunity against marijuana’s negative reputation. This industry promises 20-50 new jobs in each cultivation center with annual salaries of $30,000 to $120,000.NewsTribune photo illustration/Chris Yucus
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As medical marijuana rushes into Illinois, this industry is poised to draw in trained professionals such as horticulturists and force jobseekers to weigh the opportunity against marijuana’s negative reputation. This industry promises 20-50 new jobs in each cultivation center with annual salaries of $30,000 to $120,000.
NewsTribune photo illustration/Chris Yucus
Jeff Dankert
NewsTribune Reporter

The medical marijuana industry is rushing into Illinois to capture new territory for its growing market.

Existing and start-up cultivation companies are competing for state licenses, one in each of Illinois’ 22 state police districts as allowed by Illinois’ new medical marijuana law.

Companies are scouting District 17, which includes La Salle, Bureau and Putnam counties. Some have picked sites in Peru, Spring Valley and Princeton. Prospective cultivators appear to be aiming for manufacturing zones next to the state’s major highways.

This mushrooming industry touts another eye-popping factor: Cultivation companies each promise 20-50 new jobs with annual salaries of $30,000 to $120,000. Medical marijuana is poised to draw in trained professionals such as horticulturists and force jobseekers to weigh the opportunity against marijuana’s negative reputation.

Master Gardener
The companies are recruiting. When candidates don’t come to them, the companies go to the candidates.

Paul Barrett, University of Illinois Extension coordinator of Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs in La Salle, Bureau, Putnam and Marshall counties, said marijuana companies contacted him by telephone and email.

“I have already been contacted by several companies to run their greenhouse,” Barrett said.

He said he declined.

“I’ve already retired once and I work part-time for the university and I enjoy what I do,” Barrett said.

Barrett passed along information about the new opportunities to retired horticulturists he knows, he said.

Pot v. principles
Professional horticulturists might balk at the marijuana industry, said Lauri Carey, horticulture program coordinator and instructor at Illinois Valley Community College.

“I think there will be many traditionally-trained horticulturists that will not be willing to take the risk of growing marijuana, the risk of it affecting their career track and risk of getting into a new industry,” she said.

Barrett said he sees pot on the same level as alcohol.

“Some people think marijuana is the gateway to other hard drugs,” Barrett said.

Marigolds to marijuana
At Floralcrest Greenhouse in Mendota, Les McCormick was getting ready to plant poinsettias, a seasonal reoccurrence.

This represents a variety of horticulture that McCormick enjoys, he said. Most horticulturists don’t want to grow one plant like marijuana year-round.

“I can’t see it, I really can’t,” he said. “Most of the ones that I know wouldn’t. The same old, day-in and day-out, probably wouldn’t be much of a challenge. Most people in horticulture are social people. They would like to deal with the customers.”

People are drawn to horticulture because of the array of plants and interaction with growers and gardeners, McCormick said.

Barrett agreed.

“A lot of people were drawn to horticulture because of the different plants,” Barrett said. “If I had to deal with one particular plant all the time I would be bored myself but some people may enjoy that.”

Money in marijuana
The high salaries could tip the scale for a jobseeker on the fence.

“Jobs are jobs these days,” McCormick said. “If you want a job, you grab whatever you can. If you were fresh out of college and $75,000 in debt and somebody offers you a good job, you’re going to take it.”

Lauri Carey, the horticulture program coordinator and instructor at Illinois Valley Community College, said she was surprised by the salaries.

“Most greenhouse growers don’t make six figures,” Carey said.

The upper pay scale will draw professionals away from their current jobs, Barrett said.

“They’re looking to build these huge buildings and greenhouses,” Barrett said. “Just for this industry, you’re looking at a lot of jobs that will be produced here, a lot of construction jobs, plumbing, heating, maintenance. I think in time it will happen across the nation. Stop and think of the taxes you can generate off this product. It’s just phenomenal, millions of dollars per year.”
Companies held a well-attended marijuana job fair in March in Colorado. National Public Radio ran a story about 13 spliffy jobs in the industry. “Spliffy” is urban slang for a joint. NPR’s list included cannabis librarian and pot event planner.

Some jobs are listed on websites like Last week there were openings for membership coordinator, bud-tending trainer, product ambassador, clone room manager and cannabis blogger.

In Illinois there was a listing for “senior cultivation manager/master grower” for a 50,000 square-foot cultivation center. It touted “generous salary plus bonus and full benefits.”

The candidate would need experience in designing a cultivation center, deciding if hydroponics or soil works best, managing a large growing operation, understanding different strains, tracking plants and training and leading a team. The company and the location were not listed. Interested applicants were instructed to respond using email.

Just another paycheck
Pam Furlan, executive director of Business Employment Skills Team Inc. in Peru, said like any job, candidates will consider earnings and the work before making a decision.

“I have to believe that when they see those salary levels they are going to want to at least look into it,” she said. “It would be considered like any agribusiness job. Whatever kind of job it might be, every job is the perfect job for somebody.”

Business Employment Skills Team Inc. serves as a bridge between employers and jobseekers.

Because indoor growing operations usually do their own recruitment, Business Employment Skills Team Inc. has not heard from companies seeking employees, she said.

“It’s a very new industry and in a sense it’s kind of exciting because it could bring new types of positions that we haven’t had before,” Furlan said.

Here is as timeline showing  approval of medical cannabis laws.
1996 — California
1998 — Alaska, Oregon, Washington
1999 — Maine
2000 — Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada
2004 — Montana, Vermont
2006 — Rhode Island
2007 — New Mexico
2008 — Michigan
2010 — New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Arizona
2011 — Delaware
2012 — Connecticut, Massachusetts
2013 — New Hampshire, Illinois
2014 — Maryland, Minnesota, New York

Related Stories:
• Clergy wary, but not yet opposed, to processing medical marijuana
• Pot competitors fill seats at Peru City Council meeting

Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Article comment by: METALWORKER

The term medical marijuana is a contradiction .
Most doctor are against it's use.
I have not heard of a doctor who will prescribe it's use to a client. Maybe suggest, in some cases, to a terminal patient.
I ask how it's use will be controlled. Users will get high and be on the road. That is not right.
I do not think drunks should be on the road and I feel the same about Pot heads.

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