Cannabis BackgroundCan marijuana harm one’s future career? And I don’t necessarily mean just smoking pot, but even working for a company that produces marijuana-related products?

This thought crossed my mind as I read about an upcoming CannaSearch, “a first-of-its-kind job fair that will give employment seekers the opportunity to meet, apply and interact with Denver-area cannabis employers.”

The Denver Business Journal story says that there will be a level of acceptance for those job seekers who use marijuana.

“It doesn’t mean we’re gonna hire you,” Todd Mitchem, the sponsoring company’s chief revenue officer, said in the story. “But it also doesn’t mean you’re going to get punished.”

Apparently this ‘cannabis job fair’ will have 15 cannabis employers, including retail marijuana shops, labs that produce oils for cannabis and a marijuana tour company.

The story says that anywhere from 100 to 1000+ people could attend, and though promoting vacancies for an industry built upon a more “recreational” product, the cannabis employers are still seeking employees with the same qualities of a “professional” work environment: honesty, passion, purposefulness and a willingness to learn.

The March 13, 2014, event is open to the public, candidates must be 21+ to apply, and ironically, it’s a smoke-free setting.

“We anticipate turnout will be high … but not ‘high,’” Mitchem said in the story. “Seriously, this is a fun event, but keep your cannabis at home.”

This first-of-its-kind job fair is quite interesting, but it comes as no surprise to hear about the different types of job roles the marijuana industry has produced, especially with Colorado and Washington state legalizing the drug’s use.

And while working in the “pot industry” may seem like the best thing ever for someone in his/her 20’s, I wonder if the person’s perspective will change once he/she tries to venture into a different industry.

This actually applies to workers of all ages. Can working in the newly created (at least publicly) marijuana industry harm your chances of future employment with other companies?

It’s a question of branding and reputation. Employers undoubtedly look at your credentials and past work experiences to determine your suitability for a job. Just as a prominent technology company wouldn’t be so quick to hire someone branded as a “hacker” or thief by another business, previous marijuana-related jobs may carry their own stigma.

For example, let’s say Mark attends this CannaSearch job fair and gets hired to do work in one of the marijuana labs. He works there for a few years.

Yet, Mark has big dreams of becoming a marketing executive. So, he applies for an entry-level position at a PR firm to get his foot in the door. But when reviewing his application, the hiring manager sees that he hails from the marijuana industry. Immediately, he or she will begin to make assumptions about Mark and his character:

  • He is a pothead
  • His is unprofessional
  • He is immature

He has a bad reputation

And these all will translate to the notion that he isn’t suitable for the position.

It sounds unfair, but I believe this can certainly become a real-life scenario as we see more and more job openings in the marijuana industry.

Companies that frown upon and have workplace restrictions concerning drug use may not be so gung ho about adding a perceived “pot smoker” and/or supporter to their business—especially if the companies work to protect their brand and image.

The same holds true for students. Perhaps, while in college, a student worked in the marijuana industry, yet he or she attempts to apply for medical school or law school. Professional schools or institutions may not be so accepting of an applicant with marijuana-related experience because of the “unprofessional stigma” the industry currently has. I mean if law schools frown upon student’s with bad credit, how happy will they be with those who have marijuana-related work experience and presumed usage?

And if workers leave out their work experience for fear of judgment, they may have to end up explaining employment gaps, which often receive just as much discrimination as a tarnished reputation.

So, what’s a worker to do? Work in the marijuana industry with the possible chance of a stigma following him or her into the future? Or avoid this possibility (and industry) all together?

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