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PATERSON, N.J. (PIX11) — New Jersey is living up to its agricultural name and history when it comes to marijuana growing and sales. The state is now the fifth largest cannabis retailer in the nation, and as a result, its need for workers in the industry is significant. A job fair on Tuesday featuring cannabis businesses demonstrated that need very clearly.

Andaye Bines-Wiltshire, a chef interested in producing cannabis edibles, made the rounds at the tables of the half-dozen potential employers at the fair after finding out about the event a few days ago.

“It just came to me, ‘Just Google cannabis jobs.’ And this popped up,” she said.

The Passaic County Cannabis Job Fair, located at the Passaic County Community College main campus, drew a couple hundred applicants in three hours, including Edwin Lopez.

Lopez is the manager of a medical supplies company that’s closing its local facility, so he’s looking for a new job while his current job is phasing out. He said that he was amazed at what he’d found at the fair.

“I came here thinking it was a joke,” he said, but then revised his comments. “Not a joke, but I came to see what opportunities are there. And there are some.”

Neither the fair, nor the industry, is a joke. Both are very real, with profits ballooning. What gives New Jersey its status as the fifth largest cannabis retailer in the country is recreational and medical marijuana sales topping $177 million in the third quarter of 2022, according to the state. It also expects sales levels to continue rising.

That kind of industry strength translates into businesses in need of people power.

Alexandra Verello, a manager and recruiter at ANJA Corporation, said that the response to their call for workers was met wholeheartedly.

“Numbers,” she said, reviewing her recruitment day, “We’ve had a lot of conversations. I’ve got a whole folder full of resumes now.”

ANJA is still expecting to receive its cannabis license later this year. It wasn’t the only company at the event whose license to sell marijuana is pending. That fact took some job applicants, like Maureen Falzarano, by surprise.

“I’m just kind of confused as to why some of the bigger companies that were in the paper [advertising the event] that said they were going to be here are not here,” she said.

At least two more established companies, Ascend and Rise, had committed to attending the job fair but did not. Despite attempts made by PIX11 News, neither company could be reached for comment.

Representatives of the companies that had been in attendance seemed pleased to have participated. One of them, Dab Riga, the CEO of the TLEHL Corporation, was effusive.

“I have to say it was the most vibrant, successful job fair I’ve ever participated in on either side of a table,” he said.

Each job seeker who spoke with PIX11 News also seemed optimistic about finding opportunities in a rapidly growing sector of the economy.

“This is a billion dollar industry,” said Bines-Wiltshire, after making the rounds of employers seeking workers. “So it’s always good to get your foot into the door because you never know where you might end up.”