Ups and Downs of CFO Marijuana Careers

Readers chime in on the reputational risks of jumping to the suddenly thriving marijuana industry.
David KatzJanuary 13, 2014

On Proformative on Friday, Chris Shumate, a corporate accountant with Redline Contract Services, launched a provocative string of CFO career questions prompted by Alissa Ponchione’s article on the nation’s suddenly growing (pardon the pun) marijuana business.

The risks of jumping into a finance career in the pot business seemed to pop out first to Shumate. “How would you feel [about joining] a firm that is in the marijuana business?” he asked. “What stigma would need to be [overcome] before you would even think about joining a marijuana-based company?” Ultimately, the accountant judges the risk would be too great, no matter how high the pay: such firms would be natural magnets for racketeering and bribery investigations.

Yet as Ponchione’s piece suggests, there’s a ton of upside for executives with avid risk appetites and a willingness to learn. Looked at in a different way, the difficulties can seem like opportunities. While banks and landlords may be tough to sell on the benefits of investing in the weed business, a finance chief who can meet the challenge would have a feather in his or her cap. True, navigating the tax and legal problems of the fledgling industry could be tough going — yet some bright young finance pros might find the business a suitable training ground.

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Assessing an opportunity would have to involve considering the possible impact on future employment opportunities, of course. But as a vice president of strategic planning and analysis says in the discussion thread, “I would not consider it a negative when considering employing an individual who was in the CFO role in a business that was perfectly legal but not up to everyone’s social standards.”

In other words, there is no reason for a finance executive to conclude that a move to a marijuana-related business might send his or her career up in smoke.

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