Will a Cannabis Internship Hurt My IB Chances?

I've been offered an opportunity to intern at one of the largest cannabis growers in my state (legal state obviously) for this fall. However, I'm worried that since banking is a conservative industry, it'll give interviewers a reason to ding me based on the negative stigma.

I'll get a lot of different experience in the finance department, helping out marketing/sales with analytics, and helping recreate the business plan. I want to do it to get a unique experience, and I also have always been interested in entering the cannabis market since it's a new industry, maybe doing/starting a PE fund in the industry someday. It's also a newer company with a startup vibe and has been growing very fast. Most of the owner's are more ops/sales focused with little knowledge of finances, which is where I will obviously be a big help. I would also help them hire a full time CFO.

With all that said, IB is where I want to go after graduation. I can also just do it and not put it on my resume for banking. Or make it broad and say "agriculture industry." Will putting this on my resume do more harm than good?

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Comments (21)

Jul 25, 2021 - 3:48pm

I think Cowen did some IPOs over the last 5-7 years for like Tilray and others. Just depends on the bank and whether they lean into cannabis. I believe one of the MDs helped do some early series rounds to build the relationship. Hope this helps a bit

Jul 25, 2021 - 4:00pm

Yeah, I wouldn't thinks banks are dumb enough to pass up on a fast-growing industry with lots of potential deals just because they have the boomer "war on drugs" mentality. But then again, IB is conservative, hence my worries.

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  • Associate 2 in Consulting
Jul 25, 2021 - 5:47pm

Honestly the only thing I could think of an intern doing is:

1) posting copy paste job ad on job boards / LinkedIn once received from HR director or hiring manager. This is assuming the start up isn't running process through recruiters.

2) organise interview scheduling - assuming there are no secretaries / EAs

3) bring refreshments to the interview room

4) asking anything other than "what would be your vision in terms of nurturing long term growth of employees at the firm" - seems more like an executive management type Q's but assuming it's a small firm I can see them letting you have a win and ask that question.

Point being I don't doubt this would be a really cool internship. No idea how it would be reflected on recruitment but guess depends what the name of the firm is and how obvious it is. You can always can it a medicinal product healthcare business? Don't be too specific with what the SKU really is ;-)

I'm sure you'd be involved in many interesting projects which you can spin several bullet points on each depending how empty your CV is. Don't waste it on "helped hire CFO" - just my opinion.

Then for IB recruitment you could spin it as lord the experience but always kept thinking about how it was a shame that working at such a firm would mean waiting so long to get involved in m&a / Ipo because that's where it gets really super charged and interesting and hence IBD appeals to you. 

Again also depends how empty your CV is and what options you have. It's Def better than bartending imo. But I'm not in USA either btw. European country where it's illegal. Would have thought it's really cool internship if I was interviewing you at my industry or consulting job if you were applying here for some random reason. 

Jul 25, 2021 - 8:47pm

The easiest way to shut this down in an interview is tell them a family member of yours had cancer and recovered extremely well after smoking marihuana during their chemotherapy. This life experience made you interested in learning more about the drug and why you took on the opportunity.

After you say the first two lines, no one will ever give you a hard time about this internship again. Done. Checkmate. 

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  • Investment Analyst in AM - FI
Jul 26, 2021 - 2:29pm

No, it wouldn't. Had a close buddy intern at Weedmaps as a business development intern for his freshman summer and he was still able to land a SA at a top BB/EB

Jul 26, 2021 - 5:35pm

I think your question has been answered.....if you have to explain away anything about your internship, it's a bad starting point even if you have a good explanation. 

An internship should be a strong talking point not something you have to dance around.

Jul 27, 2021 - 1:41pm

Working in cannabis can be a very, very helpful story to interviews on your path to IB if you position it correctly. Operational efficiencies, margins, capital raising, and M&A are all incredibly important in the industry and will continue to be going forward as the industry matures. You don't have to say you did a bunch of impressive things at the internship BUT you can say that the internship exposed you to areas of finance you didn't realize were so relevant in cannabis. Here are a few key points you can emphasize that may help show your interest in IB:

  • The rise of multistate operators and how their consolidation strategy has impacted the industry & competition within individual legal states
  • The difficulty of payments & capital raising in cannabis and how it showed you the importance of institutional capital markets on both the debt & equity side
  • How lack of interstate commerce impacts economies of scale and pricing down the supply chain

I work in the industry right now so I can speak more to it if you DM me

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Jul 28, 2021 - 11:40am

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