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People learn how to break into the legal weed market this weekend in Rochester

Image shows a cannabis plant
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Rochesterians might have more opportunities to work in the burgeoning cannabis field

Those interested in pursuing a career in the cannabis industry gathered downtown over the weekend.

The Catch a Contact Career Summit — organized by New York State Cannabis Connect — took place at the Rochester Hyatt Regency Saturday. In addition to featuring presentations and panels, the event brought together emerging cannabis businesses with those wanting to explore a professional future in this industry.

Saul Guerrero, director of cannabis services for Local 338 — a cannabis workers union — says that this trade is ripe with opportunities for anybody, regardless of whether they have direct experience.

“A lot of people think that they need to know about cannabis to come into the industry,” he said. “That's not true, 99% of the skills that people have elsewhere are transferable.”

Guerrero says that means those with work experience in, for example, customer service, administration support, or operations could easily redirect those skills into this quickly burgeoning field.

Saturday’s Summit, which was supported by the New York State Department of Labor, was also a networking opportunity for businesses looking to expand resources.

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For Tiffany Walters, founder of New York State Cannabis Connect, the goal of the summit was simple: support the communities that have been most maligned by cannabis sales.

“Our Black and brown communities, they were the ones impacted through the prohibition of cannabis,” she said. “And so now that the prohibition has been lifted, we're hoping that we can uplift them and make sure that they have the information that they need.”

That positive attitude radiated throughout the room Saturday, where attendees had the opportunity to hear from a host of speakers including Rochester Mayor Malik Evans; founding director of Cannabis NYC, Dasheeda Dawson; and New York state Senator Jeremy Cooney.

Cooney says that unlike discussions about cannabis policy — which has been a focus for those interested in breaking into this emerging profession — the Summit offered an opportunity to focus on the job market itself.

“This is actually about, how do people here in Rochester connect and actually become part of the cannabis industry, whether they are a licensee themselves, or whether they're just working in the industry as a cultivator, as a tester, as a retail bud tender, whatever fits their fancy,” Cooney said. “But a lot of times, we have found that people just don't have knowledge about the types of jobs that are available in this industry.”

For Gregory Golding, who attended the weekend event in hopes of learning more about future employment possibilities, the cannabis career summit was a game changer.

“I think it's very iconic to be honest,” he said. “I would never think in my 31 years of living here that it would be, like, weed is okay to even talk about, let alone to have an event in Rochester, New York.”

Market research firm for the cannabis industry, BDSA, forecasts that despite the repeated delays to legalize sales of cannabis in the Finger Lakes region, sales in New York state are expected to reach upwards of $1.3 billion dollars this year.

 NY State Senator Jeremy Cooney (left) and WXXI News Host and Reporter Jasmin Singer (right)
Jasmin Singer
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Jasmin Singer
NY State Senator Jeremy Cooney (left) and WXXI News Host and Reporter Jasmin Singer (right)

Jasmin Singer is the host of WXXI’s Weekend Edition and Environmental Connections, as well as a guest host for Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Connections.