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Cresco Labs, Joliet-Based Marijuana Producer, Is Growing Its Workforce

JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) -- Legal recreational marijuana is only months away in Illinois, but those who grow and package cannabis are looking for a new crop of employees to meet demand.

CBS 2's Vince Gerasole found out the field is more organized and corporate than you might think.

Cannabis and its planting, cultivation, and packaging is a growing Illinois industry in more ways than one.

"Cannabis definitely requires a fair amount care compared to other herbaceous annual crops," said Jason Nelson of Cresco Labs.

Nelson is a young executive growing right alongside the industry itself.

"I'm senior vice president of production, so I control crop growth," he said "My masters is in floriculture, horticulture with plant nutrition and secondary metabolite synthesis."

The cannabis industry is so new that specializing in legalized pot wasn't part of Nelson's studies at college and grad school.

"For the longest time, I knew I had a green thumb. I enjoyed working in horticulture. But cannabis was illicit for so long, I really didn't think it was a career," Nelson said.

This grow house in Joliet is operated by Cresco Labs, which produces 25 percent of the state's legal marijuana. With recreational adult use legal at the start of next year, the firm is set to more than double its Illinois workforce to meet demand.

"We'll add over 300 jobs in the next three months in Illinois," said Scott Wells of Cresco Labs.

Wells' title alone is another example of how corporate and structured these companies and their careers can be. He is vice president of talent acquisition.

So what kinds of jobs is Cresco Labs growing – pun intended? You could get a position as a cultivation agent – which is a fancy term for gardener – and earn in the mid- to upper teens per hour.

Fresh out of college, if you're a chemist, you earn $50,000 a year. And for the position of production manager – that is, chef in the kitchens – you could get paid $70,000 to $90,000 per year.

In their kitchens, Cresco cooks, packs out, and sends out pot gummies.

And in the rolling room, we met two 20-somethings who have worked for Cresco over a year.

"I come from a farming background, so I'm into agriculture and what not," said Kandice Kestel.

They are hourly workers who've already been promoted, and received raises.

"It's nice knowing that you're kind of starting at the base of a company and seeing it all kind of flourish into this bigger thing," said Christian Mireles.

You could say they're high on their future in marijuana.

Here's a bit of advice from Cresco's recruiter: don't tell them why you like cannabis. Tell them why you are good at your job.

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