It's Harvest Season: Time to Learn a Day in the Life of a Cannabis Bud Trimmer

NEW YORK (MainStreet) - Fall is upon us, which means harvest season will be in full swing through Thanksgiving. If you'[re looking for a little extra cash, there are thousands of cannabis farmers looking for help processing their harvests, which can yield 20 upwards of 2,000 pounds of product.

In order to be a marijuana trimmer, you'll need to be O.K. with working in a gray area. While government officials in each individual state are setting up legal and illegal boundaries, the farmers and entrepreneurs growing and selling the product are hardly concerned with the end use. When your operation is processing 20 to 50 pounds of product per day, you hardly have time to worry about whether one of these nugs will find their way into the hands of a child.

How to Find Work as a Bud Trimmer

The drug trade is painted as this seedy underground filled with kingpins, and, while some of that does exist, it's not as hard to get into the drug trade as you'd think from watching TV. Like any other job, you can usually find work by searching Indeed and Craigslist. Joining Facebook groups related to cannabis harvesting and trimming is a great avenue as well.

What you're looking for in the classified ads is farming help. Just because you're not living in Colorado or Washington doesn't mean there aren't ganjapreneurs in your area seeking help. Even if you take a simple farming job, sooner or later you'll run into someone growing pot - it's not hard to find. 

Most experienced trimmers have connections, and word of mouth spreads quickly. When a grower finds a trimmer who can produce 300 to 500 quality grams per day, he brags to friends, and that trimmer gets more work. Networking is essential, so ask any farmers you know or even walk into a hydroponic or farming supply shop to ask if the operators know anyone looking for help.



How to Trim Marijuana Nugs

Harvesting marijuana has several steps, and, depending on where you're working, you may be required to focus in on one or perform several. First the smaller branches and large head nugs (aka cola nugs) are removed from the stalks. These stalks can then be used for hemp products

Trimmers then sort through the remaining stems and buds to sort out any solid buds as large as your thumbnail or bigger. Everything else is sorted into stems, water leaves, sugar leaves and mini nugs. Stems can be added to the stocks, while water leaves, sugar leaves and mini-nugs are extracted to make concentrates.

It doesn't matter whether or not you've smoked cannabis before - potheads don't make better or worse trimmers than non-potheads. What you need is an eye for detail. Marijuana buds are works of art. Each bud is different, and trimming the individual buds requires following the lines and crevices to gently prune individual stems from within the buds.

What your farm boss will be looking for in your final product is that you didn't simply use the pruning scissors to shave the buds. This wastes valuable THC crystals while also leaving stickers and crow's feet, which devalue the product on the retail market. These are pieces of stems that protrude from between the buds and mean more stem weight and a lower-shelf product. 


Essential Tools for Cannabis Trimmers

If you're going to be working as a pot trimmer, you'll want your own tools. Your employer may provide them, but keep in mind working conditions can vary greatly in the underground. First you'll need a good set of bonsai pruning scissors. These can be obtained at any gardening store for around $20 to $50, depending on the style you prefer. They're designed to reach in between leaves to snip small branches without damaging the leaves. Many people use spring-loaded scissors, but I don't. I have standards.

You'll also want either latex gloves or coconut oil. Although more expensive initially (~$10 a jar), I highly recommend coconut oil for many of the same reasons I don't like wearing a condom during sex - it's nice to feel the cracks and crevices with your bare skin. Also the coconut oil is used to lubricate your scissors. If you'd like, you can also bring a razor blade, which is used to clean the gooey THC from the scissors. Scissor hash can be smoked.

Many trimmers also choose to purchase their own trimming try with a kief screen. These cost around $50, and essentially look like a cat litter tray. This will pay for itself the first day you use it, as all those tiny THC crystals will fall through the screen, and you'll end up with at least 5-10 grams of kief dust. This stuff sells for $25-$80 a gram on the retail market.

When bringing your own equipment, be sure to notify people so they don't think you're stealing equipment. Although the industry isn't exactly what you see in the media, theft is still looked down upon pretty much everywhere.

Salary of a Ganja Trimmer

Again, this isn't McDonald's, so the salary isn't equal across the board. On the West Coast where I've worked, you can expect to make $150 to $300 per pound produced, depending on your quality and negotiation skills. Some facilities will pay you in product rather than cash. This is a great deal if you want to save money on your drug habit, but otherwise you'll have to unload the product.

Trim jobs typically last for a day or two up to a few weeks, depending on how much volume the farmer and producer work with. While September through November are peak harvest times for outdoor grows, indoor grows are harvested much more routinely. If you're a good trimmer during outdoor season, your chances of finding trim work on indoor harvests increases.

The producer and grower will have their own business deal involving profit sharing on the sale of the pot, and they'll often offer incentives, such as a free gram of oil or an ounce of nugget to the highest producer of the day. You won't be expected to get up to speed your first day. Instead focus on getting the technique down. Speed comes when technique is learned.

An average-skilled cannabis trimmer can process at least 300 grams per day, which would yield them 30-50 grams of nugget, or $80-$200. So long as you're working with quality product and have connections, you may be better taking the product, as you could turn around and unload it for up to $10-$20 a gram.

Pot Trimmer Working Conditions

Like any job, bud trimming comes with perks and pains. Most places will feed you for free (although larger operations will often not be well-prepared to feed large groups, so get in line quick). There are usually free buds to smoke and many places have dabs set up as well. Be sure not to oversmoke, however, because you're still at work. You'll often be provided with a place to crash overnight, although it's a good idea to bring stuff to camp or sleep in your car.

The downside to most trim jobs is the hours. Trimming is easy to get the hang of, but it's meticulous work, and drudgery at that. Much like data entry, working the mailroom, or any other back-end business operation, trimming is a production environment where perfect sustained quality is expected. You may find yourself working 10-12 hour days, sometimes even longer. I've put in a few 20 hour days, and seen jobs stretch out for several weeks.

Also, always keep in mind you're working with a drug. Although generally socially acceptable in most parts of the country, it is still technically illegal. At any point, the place you're working could get raided. If it does, you'll likely be O.K. so long as you don't have a prior record. If you have any outstanding warrants or court orders, ID collection time is a good time to either pray or run.

Working in the drug trade isn't glamorous. Rather than smoking a blunt with Snoop and Redman while reloading your little friends to go Don Dada on the world, you'll be sitting on a bench listening to music while clipping twigs out of a piece of broccoli. Thousands of times a day...for days...

- Written by Brian Penny for Main Street

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