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How To Be a Professional Cannabis Grower

Last Updated: March 15, 2023By Joshua Mezher

Make a living from cannabis. Learn to be a master grower from your house to the greenhouse. 

If you are here, that means you are considering a career that walks hand in hand with the cannabis plant. That's great news! Marijuana has supported the underdog entrepreneur from day one. As far as farming goes, there are not too many crops that grow as fast, smell more pungent, and have as much variety as the cannabis plants. Not to mention she is the number one cash crop in the world.  

Perhaps you're the local dealer who wants to grow their own stash, or maybe you are a college student who wants to work in the most exciting industry since the tech bubble. There is potential in weed.  Hopefully, one day you'll share the common sentiment of those working with marijuana for years - you do it because you love the plant more than the money she brings.

Either way, if you're considering making money from marijuana by growing it, this article shares how you can do just that without getting in too much trouble. 

commercial marijuana growing

Homegrown to Commercial Cannabis 

Almost all the best cannabis brands started as a home grow operation. That's because back in 2010, when the cannabis industry was just gaining traction, every grow was homegrown. Literally, it was that simple - anything bigger was going to get busted. Fast forward to 2021, and brands like Jungle Boys, Cookies, and Gold Seal are now some of the best California cannabis flower brands around. These OG growers all learned how to grow in their garage or garden before scaling to larger medical grows and eventually recreational marijuana.

Grow one pot plant to start. 

Just grow one gram of weed. This might sound a little odd if you are looking to maximize your profits right away. But slow down for a second; you have probably never grown a plant in your life, let alone a cannabis plant. Having low expectations for your first harvest will set you up for success. Look at it as an exercise in stretching your green thumb and learning about the plant rather than making a buck. If you do, you're going to have a better experience.  

The time makes it so you can start to understand her. You can consider what kind of growing conditions she likes, what potential problems look like, and when she needs more water before jumping into the deep end. Take it from our experience; there is nothing worse than sinking a few grand into your first grow box just to have it die on you because you over-fertilized your plants. 

Take it slow and start simple. Growing in soil is the simplest, cheapest, and most foolproof way to grow beautiful buds. It can be done outdoors, in a grow closet, grow tent, or just on your windowsill if you use an autoflowering seed. Growing a cannabis plant is easy; it's called weed for a reason. Do it, and you will have fun. Learning how to harvest a 10,000 sq ft facility is a whole different ball game.

Learn from professional growers

There is no need to reinvent the wheel. The best way to start growing is to copy a system that has been proven to yield consistent results. There are cannabis grow blogs, forums you can join, and people to follow on Instagram. There are also a ton of great cannabis podcasts, such as the Future Cannabis Project, lots of books, and YouTube videos.

Once you have mastered the art of successfully growing marijuana, you can start to experiment with the curiosity you have cultivated. Learn to mix your own flowering nutrients or experiment with the flowering cycle. Just remember, when learning how to grow weed, it’s best to take the approach with the least risks. 

Our favorite resources: 

Study Growing Cannabis

Accredited Universities 

Yes, you can now study cannabis at accredited universities all over America! And we are not talking about how to get as high as possible in your dorm room. We mean actual courses on grow science, cannabis history, political issues, marijuana economics, and the human cannabinoid receptor system. 

Accredited Universities with cannabis courses

University  Major
Colorado State University Pueblo's bachelor's in cannabis biology and chemistry
Lake Superior State University's Associate/bachelor's in cannabis chemistry
Northern Michigan University's Bachelor's in medicinal plant chemistry
Stockton University's Minor in cannabis studies

Cannabis Colleges 

If getting a four-year degree in cannabis isn't for you, don’t fret. There are lots of industry-specific education agencies that not only help you learn basic skills but also help you land a job for less time and money than a traditional university. Yeah, they might be unaccredited, but that doesn't matter much to an industry spawned from garages and closets. It's a great way to get your foot in the door. 


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Black Market Cannabis Growing 

Maybe you’re in a state or country that has not legalized cannabis growing. Perhaps you want to get a head start in the cannabis industry. If so, we commend you for taking the risk. More "legitimate" businesses than you think got their starting capital selling marijuana. 

If you're thinking about going down this road, the first step is to tell no one. That is the first part of any stealth grow-op; it’s also crucial for not getting busted. The next thing to realize is that growing cannabis illegally is a lifestyle. I say this because when growing without a license, you can only grow so big. The bigger you are, the more likely you are to get caught. 

Picking your grow's location and size is going to be your foundation. Again, we cannot say this enough, but it's best to start small and learn the plant before putting a bunch of money and time into a grow room. You're going to want your location to be secure. That refers to both intruders and how long you will have the grow space. In the attic at work might not be the best idea, but it's been done. We suggest growing at a property where you have a good relationship with the landlord, or even better, you own it. That way, no one is nosing around or kicking you out. 

Black market growing is no joke. You can wind up in jail or worse in some countries. So, keep it small, simple, and safe. Don't keep firearms on the property or anything else you would not want to get caught with. Trim and process off-site and keep the smell down using all the available tools like carbon filters, low-smelling cannabis plants, and air scrubbers. 

Related: Is Selling Your Homegrown Weed Legal?

Master Grower Career Path

If you’re looking at joining the cannabis industry, you might have your sights set on becoming a master grower. This title has become the moving standard of the cannabis industry. It once meant, "I know how to grow cannabis very well," but in today's age of commercial cannabis, it means, "I know how to run a 100,000 sq ft facility while pulling down perfect harvest after harvest without missing a beat, and you have impeccable PPM and SOPs." All of this happens while managing a team of 20 people in a moving market that is constantly shifting. It's a tough job, and you must be on point to be any good at it. 

These guys are the backbone of the marijuana industry, and their path to the profession varies. However, there is a pretty standard path to apprentice for this position. It starts by trimming cannabis, one of the most grueling, yet perhaps most important, jobs in the cannabis industry. The price difference between cannabis that has been meticulously manicured and cannabis that is machine trimmed is in the thousands. Crops can be ruined by a bad trim job, and bad harvests can be saved by a good one. 

After you have served your time as a trimmer, you start to move into the garden. The next stop is learning how to prune and pull leaves. Then, you go on to cloning cannabis and managing the mother room. Cloning is a tedious cannabis job, but it’s also gratifying as you help create the foundation for the next grow. Keeping flock after flock of clones and turning them into teens is an art in timing and patience. It's here where you're really going to learn about pest management and growing protocol. Healthy teenage plants are the foundation of a big harvest. 

Finally, you move into managing the garden in terms of feeding, mixing nutrients, preventative plant maintenance, and managing flowering cycles (as opposed to vegetative grow rooms). With this comes the added task of managing the workers, logistics, and quality control. When you have served in every role and have about 4 years of experience under your belt, you've begun to scratch the surface of becoming a master grower. 

How Much Money Can You Make? 

Interestingly, the amount of money you can make from working as a master grower in the legal cannabis market is about equal to what you can make as a black-market grower. This evolved out of the market dynamics of cannabis. For larger businesses to attract talent that could grow the best cannabis and access the best marijuana strains, they needed to match what growers could make running a black-market home grow. Otherwise, the incentives of working in the regulated industry versus the black market do not make sense to the free-thinking cannabis cultivator. 

The average salary for a master grower or an unlicensed grower (without getting busted) is about $80k to $150k a year. However, one option comes with far less risk, health benefits, and it's one of the highest-paid cannabis jobs. The black-market option is riskier, but you are your own boss. Whether a legal grower or illegal grower, they are both ultimately slaves to the cannabis plant. Don't worry though, she is a kind master.

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Professional Cannabis Growing FAQ: 

How to become a master grower?

Becoming a master grower takes time and dedication. Many master growers have earned a master’s degree in commercial farming, botany or horticulture from an accredited university. In rare cases, experience can substitute education. 

Average master grower salary?

The average salary for a master grower is $96,228, but it ranges from $80k to $150k. Earning a master’s degree from an accredited school or a cannabis university and experience can help you reach the higher end of this range. 

Entry level cannabis jobs?

There are lots of different entry level cannabis jobs. If you’re interested in becoming a master grower, your best option is to start as a trimmer. Trimmers work directly in the cultivation and maintenance of cannabis plants and equipment. Other entry level positions include budtender, delivery driver, cannabis marketing positions and more!

Master Grower Certification?

Several organizations offer master grower certifications. The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) provides online courses, as well as several others. 

Master Grower Degree? 

There aren’t specific master’s degree programs to help you become a master grower. You can, however, get a master’s degree in botany, horticulture, or farming disciplines to learn the skills to become a master grower. These programs are available at many universities.

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