New jobs cropping up in California as recreational pot becomes legal

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When recreational marijuana use becomes legal in California in 2018, there will be a lot of green to go around, and it won’t just be from marijuana plants. The green that will be going around the most will be money, because government jobs in the emerging industry will be plentiful.

According to the Associated Press on Saturday, California is “on a hiring binge to fill what eventually will be hundreds of new government positions by 2019 intended to bring order to the legal pot economy.”

Government employees will be needed to fill all sorts of positions for a variety of cannabis-related tasks, which include keeping an eye on what’s seeping into streams near cannabis farms and running background checks on storefront sellers who want government licenses. Thousands of additional jobs are expected to be added by local governments.

Beginning in January, California will marry its longstanding medical cannabis industry to the newly legalized recreational one, creating what will become the largest legal pot economy in the country.

Last January, there were only 11 full-time workers employed by the newly-created regulatory agency overseeing the pot market, called the Bureau of Cannabis Control. This coming February, the agency, which is moving into new offices later this year, expects to have more than 100 staffers.

Eventually, satellite offices will pop up around the state.

Workers will soon be in demand to issue licenses for sellers, growers, truck drivers, manufacturers and others working in the projected $7 billion industry. In fact, the state has taken to Facebook to attract job applicants.

The AP reports that the California Cannabis bureau is using a video snippet of actor Jim Carrey, who urges job seekers to “Get those applications in … before this guy beats you to it.”

“New job just ahead,” reads another post. “We’re hiring.”

Roughly $100 million has been allotted in this year’s state budget to fund regulatory programs for marijuana, which includes personnel to review and issue licenses, watch over environmental conditions and carry out enforcement, according to the AP report.

State agencies will also be hiring workers for pot-related regulatory jobs:

  • Public Health Department: 50
  • Water Resources Control Board: 65
  • Food and Agriculture Department: 60

A specialized workforce, including environmental scientists, engineers, and legal professionals will be needed to help sort out complex issues involving the state’s maze of environmental laws. These jobs can be lucrative, according to the report, which noted that some scientist posts will pay annual salaries of more than $100,000. Special investigators with the Consumer Affairs Department could earn approximately $80,000.

Republican state Sen. Ted Gaines of El Dorado recently urged Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency in Siskiyou County because of so many illegal pot operations.

Criminals are treating the county as “their own illicit greenhouse” while polluting waterways with pesticides and other waste, Gaines stated.

The state says it will be ready to begin issuing temporary licenses to cultivate cannabis in January.

Mendocino County, which is located north of San Francisco, has reported that roughly 700 cultivators have applied for local permits. However, it’s likely that there are thousands of people growing pot in the coastal county, and many growers and sellers could decided to stay underground.

“My biggest concern is that the state regulations may prove to be so onerous that it will discourage people who want to be legally compliant from coming forward,” said John McCowen, who chairs the county Board of Supervisors. “And that will mean greater opportunity for those operating in the black market.”

Law enforcement will also face new demands as pot becomes recreational in California. To that end, the California Highway Patrol is expanding training for officers on how to identify stoned drivers. Cities that permit cultivation, manufacturing or sales may also need police to protect legitimate operators from gangs that will surely want to intimidate them from conducting business.

And there’s also the issue of keeping legally grown pot from moving into the black market.

“We are going to have to invest,” predicted Gardena Police Chief Edward Medrano, who heads the California Police Chiefs Association.

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