How to Work In Cannabis

Requirements by State

Map of the United States

Politics, budgets, and public support vary widely by state, which means each state’s requirements to work in the cannabis industry look completely different from one another.* This map and corresponding state information is not updated in real time. For up-to-the-minute information on requirements to work in cannabis, visit the governing body links provided on each state page.

17States & DistrictsAdult use cannabis is legal
21States & DistrictsMedical cannabis is legal

How to get your cannabis license in:

Shape of New York

New York

Adult Use:
Market Overview:

In April 2021, New York passed legislation that legalized use for adults 21 and older. Additionally, people will be permitted to store up to five pounds of cannabis at home.

Rulemaking has been ongoing since 2021, but on July 14, 2022, New York's Cannabis Control Board approved regulations and applications for "Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary [CAURD] licenses."

It also has licensed hundreds of New York farms to grow adult-use cannabis and to be sold at retail dispensaries. On July 14, the state approved 20 more cultivation licenses bringing the number to 223.

New York's licensing is uniquely focused on social justice and equity, with the first licenses to be issued to businesses that are at least 30% owned by "Justice Involved Individuals" or justice-involved nonprofits and have a significant presence in the state.

According to the New York State Office of Cannabis Management:

A justice involved individual is someone who:

Was convicted of a marihuana-related offense in New York State before March 31, 2021; or 

Had a parent, legal guardian, child, spouse, or dependent who was convicted of a marihuana-related offense in New York State prior to March 31, 2021.

Spouses include those individuals who were in a domestic partnership because they were not legally permitted to marry in New York State prior to the enactment of the Marriage Equality Act (June 24, 2011); Was the dependent of someone who was convicted of a marihuana-related offense in New York State before March 31, 2021.

Applicants will be required to submit documentation proving their conviction or prove their relation to the Justice-Involved Individual.

Qualifying nonprofits, meanwhile, must have:

A history of creating vocational opportunities for current or formerly incarcerated individuals, including justice involved individuals;

  • A history of intentionally serving current or formerly incarcerated individual, including justice involved individuals;
  • At least one justice involved board member, officer, governing committee member, or advising committee member;
  • At least five full time employees;
  • Operated a social enterprise that had net assets or profit for at least two (2) years, defined as a business serving customers, operated by a nonprofit or fiscally sponsored by a nonprofit, which both fulfills the parent organization’s mission and generates revenue.
  • A significant presence in the state.

"Significant presence" is defined by the state as meaning "that the person with sole control and at least thirty percent (30%) ownership of your retail dispensary must also have residency (live in), assets (vehicles, land, etc.), real property (this includes primary, secondary, and/or rental homes), a bank account, or some other connection with or in New York State."

Medical marijuana was first legalized in New York in 2014, but was very restrictive. There are not as of yet any brick-and-mortar cannabis retail stores open anywhere in New York.

Requirements & Application Process:

There are currently no known licenses or cards required to be an employee at a New York cannabis facility. We'll keep this page updated as the state provides clarification. There are positions available in cultivation, but not retail.

Background Check Requirements:

Per legislation signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2021, reduced penalties will be implemented for the possession and sale of cannabis. Additionally, the legislation “creates automatic expungement or resentencing for anyone with a previous marijuana conviction that would now be legal under the law.” This means that once the conviction is expunged, it will not show up on a background check and cannot be used against an applicant seeking employment.

However, state law will require a basic criminal background check that goes back seven years, and the following criteria will prevent a candidate from working at a plant-touching business:

"Registered organizations shall not be managed by or employ anyone who has been convicted within three years of the date of hire, of any felony related to the functions or duties of operating a business, except that if the board determines that the manager or employee is otherwise suitable to be hired, and hiring the manager or employee would not compromise public safety, the board shall conduct a thorough review of the nature of the crime, conviction, circumstances, and evidence of rehabilitation of the manager or employee, and shall evaluate the suitability of the manager or employee based on the evidence found through the review. In determining which offenses are substantially related to the functions or duties of operating a business, the board shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

(a) a felony conviction involving fraud, money laundering, forgery and other unlawful conduct related to owning and operating a business; and

(b) a felony conviction for hiring, employing or using a minor in transporting, carrying, selling, giving away, preparing for sale, or peddling, any controlled substance, or selling, offering to sell, furnishing, offering to furnish, administering, or giving any controlled substance to a minor."

The law stipulates an exception for certain drug-related convictions: "A felony conviction for the sale or possession of drugs, narcotics, or controlled substances is not substantially related. This subdivision shall only apply to managers or employees who come into contact with or handle medical cannabis."

Additional information on background check requirements will be provided if added or amended by the state.

Additional Links:
Additional Job & Salary Information:

2021 Salary Guide

State Regulations Forum: Get your state regulations questions answered in our community forum.

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