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Legal Marijuana Industry Launches Its First Job Fair

By Al Lewis

DENVER ( MainStreet) Two things in great demand jobs and marijuana will converge in the Mile High City on Thursday at what is being billed as "CannaSearch," the first-ever job fair for the legal marijuana industry .

Job seekers needn't worry about peeing in a cup. "If we had a drug test, it would be to try something and tell us how it was," joked Tim Cullen, co-owner of O.PenVAPE, the company that organized the event.

The nascent weed industry seeks qualified professionals in sales, marketing, accounting, information technology, quality control, horticulture and administration, said Todd Mitchem, O.PenVAPE's chief revenue officer. It's quickly getting to be just like every other business.

"Jobseekers will be pleasantly surprised at the number of well-paying, mainstream positions," he said.

O.PenVAPE bills itself as the largest national brand in cannabis. It operates businesses in Colorado, California and Washington. It plans to next set up shops in Oregon and Massachusetts as it sets its sights on a nation that is incrementally legalizing pot.

Since 1996, 20 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized medical marijuana. This year, Colorado and Washington state legalized recreational use of the drug. And wherever weed goes, O.PenVAPE plans to grow .

So far, O.PenVAPE employs 125 people. It is one of a handful of companies that Cullen owns with his business partner, Ralph Morgan. Their companies provide an integrated production line from seed to sale. They sell just about everything from plants that customers can grow in their gardens, or their basements, to pens that vaporize cannabis oils and can be puffed like e-cigarettes.

As a leader in the industry, O.PenVAPE hopes to showcase the jobs that legal marijuana is creating. Several companies have signed up to present job opportunities at O.PenVAPE's downtown Denver headquarters.

Mitchem offered a wide range of guesses as to how many people will show up at the fair, which will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 10th and 1058 Delaware St -- maybe 100, maybe 1,000 attendees. There's no registration required. Some people have called the company from out of state, so it could even be more.

Colorado's unemployment rate, at 6.2%, is healthier than that of the rest of the nation, but many jobseekers are looking to trade up to better-paying jobs, or to get involved in a fast-growing industry that might offer more room for advancement. O.PenVAPE's 6,000-square-foot office could be swiftly overrun by throngs of job hunters and curiosity seekers.

Dixie Elixirs , O.PenVAPE's biggest competitor, will be among the companies scouting for employees at CannaSearch. The company infuses marijuana into everything from candies to soda pop. It employs about 45 people and adds about one or two more every week, said its founder Tripp Keber, who is currently at work building a 30,000 square-foot factory.