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These 6 Core Skills Make Veterans Ideal Cannabis Employees

Looking to hire leaders with the training that makes them ideal for the cannabis industry? Look no further than veterans.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The cannabis industry increasingly realizes the value veterans bring to cannabis organizations.


"Veterans have many roles in the cannabis industry, including entrepreneurs, growers, dispensary owners, advocates, CEOs, and policymakers," says Cherissa Jackson who served active duty in the Air Force for twenty-three years, retired as an Air Force nurse who survived three combat tours (two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan), is the Chief Medical Executive at AMVETS, and manages the HEAL Program.   

For many veterans, cannabis is personal. They have histories with the plant, as medical cannabis patients and long-time advocates. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs reports that 30 percent of Vietnam veterans have had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A recent federal study showed that cannabis could help PTSD, just one of a growing number of studies echoing its conclusions. 

"And with a grim suicide rate of 53 percent higher than the non-veteran population, many veterans are suffering, and we know that the cannabis plant has many benefits that can help them. Our common goal is to provide resources, uplift, inspire, and give hope to other Veterans," says Jackson.

But military officials have been slow to catch on. Although legislation says recommending medical cannabis to veterans is approved, neither the Veteran Affairs (VA) doctors nor the veterans themselves are protected under federal law. Depending on a wide range of state jurisdictions, physicians could be penalized for recommending cannabis, and veterans could be punished for consuming it. 

Still, veteran cannabis advocates like Derek Cloutier, founder of New England Veterans Alliance, continue lobbying for their rights to medical cannabis. Veterans are strong leaders in the push towards legalization, and they have highly desired skill sets that make them ideal cannabis employees.

Related: These Are the Top 5 Most In-Demand Skill Sets for the Cannabis Industry

Transferable skills veterans bring to the cannabis industry

Jackson says that veterans have skills that are easily transferable to the cannabis industry. "Veterans are mission-driven and focused. Veterans are go-getters, thought leaders, and risk-takers who take initiative. Veterans are hardworking that won't stop until the mission or task at hand is completed. Veterans are loyal and believe in 'service Before self'."

Here are just a few:

Related: These Are the Top 5 Most In-Demand Cannabis Jobs for 2021


The military trains service members to take the lead and know when to take action. As many cannabis organizations are in a hypergrowth phase, they need employees who can grow with the company, take the initiative, and step into leadership roles.


Former military police officer Brett Puffenbarger is now Director of Sales and Marketing at FOCUS, Strategic Advisor at Beard Bro Farms, and Managing Partner at Good Highdeas. Puffenbarger says, "In the military, the mission commander will give a quick brief of your milestones and the end goal. How service members reach the milestones and end-goals is up to them." In a start-up environment, cannabis organizations need autonomous employees who are action-oriented.


The military trains service members to adapt to change at any given moment – expect the unexpected and know how to take action. With the constantly changing regulations, the cannabis industry values adaptability.


The military trains service members to be team players and do whatever it takes to help the group succeed. Sometimes this means performing tasks outside your role. Many cannabis companies are rapidly growing – this often requires employees to put the team first and take on responsibilities outside their role.


The military requires open communication and honesty. Both the safety and success of the mission are often reliant on transparency. In the cannabis industry, transparency is key to building openness, trust, and a workplace founded in respectful honesty to make teamwork a cohesive unit. A workplace with transparency and openness is respected and often required.


"The military really humbles you. A lot of people come into the military thinking they're hot stuff, and the military breaks you. They teach you that you have to earn everything you get," says Puffenbarger. The same goes for cannabis. In cannabis, there's a lot to learn. Anyone working in the cannabis industry stands on the backs of generations of patients, activists, and people open to new thinking and who have been working towards cannabis reform for up to fifty years. Cannabis employees must bring humility.

Related: Many Cannabis Employees Are Fleeing Their Jobs. Here's How to Keep Them Around.

How can cannabis HR leaders support the hiring of veterans?

Currently, creating a sustainable pipeline for veterans to join the industry is complex – there's not a one-size-fits-all solution. It starts with the internal culture and goals of your organization. 

"It's important HR leaders know that Veterans want to be in the cannabis space," says Cherissa Jackson. "With the transferrable skills Veterans have and companies' willingness to train them, Veterans will be the best employees any company would want. Veterans need the opportunity to showcase what they can do in the cannabis space. When given the opportunity, Veterans will rise to the challenge and execute without fail."

As a starting point, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is your organization doing to attract veterans?
  • How is your organization training hiring managers to seek out veterans? 
  • Where are you looking for future employees? 
  • What skillsets are you prioritizing in your new hires? 
  • Have you considered organizations to connect with that might be well-connected with veterans?

Cannabis cultivator THC Design has gone a step further and implemented a veterans internship program that has strengthened its organization.

Green Flower Media has an extensive list of cannabis organizations supporting veterans. Organizations like Buds for Vets and the Battle Brothers Foundation also offer resources for leaders who are looking to hire and train veterans. 

Building relationships with organizations that are already focused on supporting veterans supports a sustainable pipeline of veteran employees moving to the cannabis industry.