Colorado Restaurant Workers Head to Greener Pastures At Dispensaries

Colorado’s legal marijuana boom is in full swing, but the industry is having some unforeseen, negative impacts on other sectors of the state’s economy.

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Apr 2 2017, 9:00pm

Photo via Flickr User Dank Depot

Colorado's legal marijuana boom is in full swing, but the industry is having some unforeseen, negative impacts on other sectors of the state's economy.

According to a new report, many workers in restaurants and hospitality are jumping ship to take up jobs in weed dispensaries.

"Our work force is being drained by the pot industry. There's a very small work pool as it is. Enter the weed business, which pays $22 an hour with full benefits," says Denver-based restaurant owner Bryan Dayton, speaking with Bloomberg.

For anyone familiar with the rapid pace, high stress, and often low pay of restaurant work, it's easy to see why making the move to dispensary could be a no-brainer. Where young members of the workforce could once get their chops, and their pain quotidien, from cooking gigs, the marijuana industry offers a new and potentially more inviting work experience.

Jobs at dispensaries range in seniority and pay — from budtenders dealing with customers one-on-one, to harvesters on farms, to those helping to process weed for a variety of popular concentrates, such as "shatter."

Michael Leibowitz, a Denver-based cannabis entrepreneur tells Bloomberg that cultivators who work for his company, Veritas Fine Cannabis, start at $20 an hour. He's also trying to get healthcare benefits for his employees.

Not only is the weed industry indirectly poaching low-paid employees at restaurants, it's also doing so directly, according to Jennifer Jasinski, a Denver restaurateur, with some skilled pastry chefs leaving kitchen work to ply their trade making medicated pastries and candies of all varieties.

Since legalization in 2014, legal marijuana in Colorado has produced over $1 billion in profit for the state, and with jobs in that sector expected to triple in the next few years, that may spell more trouble for restaurants in Colorado as workers continue to move to greener pastures.