What Does It Take To Be An Executive In The Legal Cannabis Industry?

It is no secret that there are enormous sums of money to be made in the legal cannabis business. Not surprisingly, compensation packages for the executives who run profitable cannabis-based business are also likely to be large. That said, because cannabis and its products are illegal in the US, the talent pool is relatively shallow for executives with previous cannabis experience. Consequently, most new cannabis executives are likely to be recruited from other industries including pharmaceuticals, agribusiness, consumer healthcare and tobacco.  This is because, like the cannabis industry, these industries are highly regulated and will be under intense scrutiny from state and even federal agencies.

Gilbert J. Carrara Jr, MD, who oversees retain recruiting services at Battalia Winston International, recently described the skills sets and characteristics that he believes will be required for successful cannabis industry executive. They include:

Tough Mindedness

Because of the state-to-state complexity of cannabis legislation and negative perceptions surrounding cannabis use, executives in this industry cannot be thin-skinned or easily discouraged. If a person cannot accept repeatedly being told “no” or “go away” then he/she is not likely to be executive material in the legal cannabis industry.


The legal cannabis industry is in its infancy and it will continue to evolve and grow in wildly unpredictable and unanticipated ways. At present, change is the norm in the cannabis industry executive who are flexible, can pivot on a dime and remain open to sometimes new unconventional ideas on a regular basis will do just fine.


Like executives in other industries, cannabis industry executives must be adaptable because they will be required to communicate with a diverse group of stakeholders. That said, cannabis executives must be comfortable discussing scientific and medical topics with government and healthcare officials and equally as comfortable addressing business concerns with consumers.

Passion & Drive

Unlike other industries, simply having a resume with the requisite college degree and executive skill sets may not be sufficient for success in the cannabis industry. Because cannabis and its products are not legal at the Federal level in the US, the road ahead for cannabis executives is likely to be a long and very rocky one. To that point, the success of the industry will likely depend upon executives who have the desire and passion to continue to push things forward even when the likelihood of success is not certain.

As a former professional recruiter, I can tell you that finding a qualified “right fit” candidate at the technical or executive levels is never an easy task. And a limited talent pool does not make things any easier.  But, even though the existing executive talent pool may not be a great one, cannabis industry executives are needed; so choose wisely!



Cannabis Extraction: Myths and Truths

There was an interesting article recently published by Markus Roggen PhD an organic chemist and cannabis expert, who reviewed the “dos” and “don’ts” when conducting Cannabis extractions.  DIY cannabis extractions are currently very popular because of the recent dabbing craze. Nevertheless, perhaps the most important point of the article concerns the need for quality control in the cannabis extraction industry to ensure that consumers “get what they are paying for” and that the products they use are safe.

We are in the early days of industrial scale cannabis extractions and like other industries, e.g. food and beverage, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology etc,  where production must be regulated and quality control measures enforced, similar quality standards that guide extractions and production must be created for the cannabis industry.  While this may not be viewed favorably by some current leaders of the cannabis industry, it will be necessary to establish the credibility of the industry and ensure the quality and safety of cannabis and its products as the industry continues to evolve and mature.

What is CBN And Why It May Be Important

Cannabinol or CBN is a weak psychoactive cannabinoid found only in trace amounts in Cannabis (1).  It is mostly a degradation product (metabolite) of Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) [2].

Studies suggest that CBN acts as a weak agonist of CB1 receptors and has a higher affinity for CB2 receptors albeit lower than the affinity of THC for CB2 receptors (3, 4)..

Because CBN is a partially-selective agonist of CB2 receptors it has been suggested to have a plethora of therapeutic benefits including 1) pain relief, 2) sedative effects, 3) anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activity, 4) anticonvulsive properties, 5) bone growth promotion and 6) appetite stimulation (5-9). However, it is important to note that much more research must performed with CBN to validate or refute its potential therapeutic and clinical effects.


  1. Karniol IG, Shirakawa I, Takahashi RN, Knobel E, Musty RE. (1975) Effects of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabinol in man. Pharmacology 1975; 13:502-512.
  2. McCallum ND, Yagen B, Levy S, Mechoulam R. Cannabinol: a rapidly formed metabolite of delta-1- and delta-6-tetrahydrocannabinol. Experientia 1975; 31:520-521.
  3. Mahadevan A, Siegel C, Martin BR, Abood ME, Beletskaya I, Razdan RK. Novel cannabinol probes for CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2000; 43:3778-3785.
  4. Petitet F, Jeantaud B, Reibaud M, Imperato A, Dubroeucq MC. Complex pharmacology of natural cannabinoids: evidence for partial agonist activity of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and antagonist activity of cannabidiol on rat brain cannabinoid receptors. Life Sciences 1998; 63:1-6.
  5. Zymont PM, Andersson DA, Hogestatt ED  Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannbiol activate capsaicin-sensitive sensory nerves via a CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptor-independent mechanism  J Neurosci 2002; 22:4720-4727.
  6. Appendino G, Gibbons S, Giana A, Pagani A et al. Antibacterial cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa: a structure-activity study.  J Nat Prd 2008; 71:1427-1430.
  7. Ludovic Croxford J Yamamura T. Cannabinoids and the immune system: potential for the treatment of inflammatory diseases? J.Neuroimmunol. 2005: 166:3-18.
  8. Farrimond JA, Whalley BJ, Williams CM Cannabinol and cannabidiol exert opposing effects on rat feeding patterns.  Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2012; 223:117-129.
  9. Cannabis 101: What is CBN and what are the benefits of this cannabinoid? https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/what-is-cbn-and-what-are-the-benefits-of-this-cannabinoid  2015. Accessed August 3, 2017

A Cannabis Factoid

According to a 2016 article in Wired Magazine, in 1993, the average THC content in commercially available cannabis was roughly 3 percent by weight. By 2008, through traditional breeding programs, the THC content (potency) had nearly  tripled.  In 2017, analyses suggested that the world wide THC content of some strains of cannabis may be 12-16 percent or as high as 37 percent by weight (1-5). Recent genetic analysis suggest that this increase may be a  result of gene amplification with high THC-producing plants having multiple copies of THC biosynthetic genes.

Many cannabis  industry experts contend that the exponential increases in THC levels  can be directly attributed to the so-called “war on drugs” that forced illegal growers to abandon outdoor cultivation in favor of indoor growing operations. Unlike outdoor growing operations, indoor cultivation permits more controlled growing environments, less need for pesticides  and a reduced likelihood of theft of mature plants.  However, as the concentration of THC increased, so did prevailing market prices of cannabis. These price increases helped growers to absorb the higher cost  of indoor climate control and artificial lighting without cutting into profit margins. Ironically, however, the legal use of cannabis for medical and recreational use in many US States, has allowed growers to move their illicit indoor growing operations into legal, full scale greenhouse cultivation.  This, in turn, is currently causing the the price of cannabis to plunge in many states.

While THC concentration are at all time highs (pun intended), less attention has been paid to genetic manipulation of cannabis plants for medicinal use that contain high levels of cannabinoids other than THC. This area represents the next era of genetic manipulation of the Cannabis genome.

Stay tuned…..


  1. Radwan MM, Elsohly MA, Slade D, Radwan MM et al. Cannabinoid ester constituents from high-potency Cannabis sativa Phytochemistry 2008 69:2627-26-33
  2. Niesink RJ, Rigter S, Koeter NW, Brunt TM, Potency trends of delta=(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol and cannbinol in cannabis in the Netherlands 2005-2015. Addiction 2015; Aug1 [Epub ahead of print]
  3. Swift W, Wong A, Li KM, Arnold JC, McGregor I Analysis of cannabis seizures in NSW Australia: cannabis potency and cannabinoid profile. PLoS one 2013; 8: e70052
  4. Zamengo L, Frison G, Bettin C, Sciarrone R, Variability of cannabis potency  in the Venice area (Italy): a survey over the period 2010-2012. Drug Test Anal 2014:6:46-51
  5. Bruci Z, Papoutsis I, Athanaselis S, Nikolaou P, et al. First systematic evaluation of the potency of Cannabis sativa plants grown in Albania Forensic Sci In 2012; 222:40-46.




Medical Marijuana Courses Are Now Available for College Credit!

Back in the day when I was going to graduate school in Madison, WI,  there was no such thing as medical Cannabis (although there was plenty of weed to go around).  But, as the line in that old Dylan song goes “the times they are a changin”

Late last month, the University of California-Davis announced that it would be joining Humboldt State University in offering undergraduate students a course entitled Physiology of Cannabis.  FYI, Humboldt State has been offering courses in medical Cannabis since 2012 (not surprising since the school is located in prime Cannabis cultivation territory).

According to UC-Davis officials the semester-long, three credit course will be aimed at biology students and will cover the endocannabinoid system, the effects of cannabinoids on the human body and the therapeutic value of Cannabis.

Likewise, Sonoma State University announced that it will be offering a one day symposium on March 11, 2017  to members of the healthcare industry in the Bay area. The symposium is entitled Medical Cannabis: A Clinical and it is intended as a workforce development course.  Nurses, physicians and pharmacists can get continuing education credit for the course. Topics that will be covered include the history of cannabis, an introduction to cannabinoids and terpenes, dosing and administration of cannabinoids, legal implication and other medical-related issues. The university is also planning a three day course on Cannabis regulatory issues later in the month.

While these courses are available, there is currently no undergraduate degree program in Cannabis science/medicine offered by any US university or college. That said, don’t be surprised if this major becomes a reality in States where medical and recreational Cannabis are legal.

Finding a Science Job in the Cannabis Industry

According to a recent report by the Cannabis website Leafly, America’s legal cannabis industry now supports more than 122,000 full-time jobs in 29 States and Washington DC. I

A recent article by Bruce Barcott entitled “How to Find a Job in the Cannabis Industry” offers some insights on the types of jobs that are available and how to land one.

He offered, like most industries the best way to land a job in the Cannabis industry is to network yourself into one. Also, working with a recruiting firm can be helpful.  Interestingly, recruiting firms and staffing companies that specialize in Cannabis jobs are popping up daily in many states where medical and recreational Cannabis are legal. However, before you take the plunge it is important to educate yourself to determine what is out there and whether or not you are a good fit for a Cannabis career.

So what do we know?  Most of the open jobs are in the Western states, California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Arizona with a growing presence in Minnesota and Massachusetts. There are a smattering of jobs emerging in New York, Connecticut, Maryland  and Washington DC.  While 40 percent of open positions are specific to the Cannabis industry, roughly 60 are jobs that exist in other industries such as executive assistants, human resources specialists retail operations directors bookkeepers and staff accountants.That said, there are a number of Cannabis business operators who are looking for pharmaceutical sales representatives, or in horticulturalists from large commercial plant growing operations.

So question is: are there are any jobs in the Cannabis for the average Bio Job Blog reader?  The answer is YES!!!!!!  Here are a few examples: Laboratory chemist, operations manager, analytical chemist/production manager, software developer, food productions manager, and my favorite professional joint roller.  Of course there will be many more opportunities as the industry continues to grow (pun intended). That said, relocation is likely required but then again if you are qualified and possess the skills the company may offer a relocation package.  There is a ton of money being made in the industry!