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Ups and Downs of CFO Marijuana Careers

Readers chime in on the reputational risks of jumping to the suddenly thriving marijuana industry.

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.

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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