Beyond the fields and warehouses, there’s demand for scientists and manufacturers

WASHINGTON — Eight years ago, Samantha Miller was earning six figures a year as a product developer for a LED lighting company in Northern California when a high school friend called to ask a favor. Would Miller be able to help her friend’s boss at a medical marijuana dispensary figure out how to use a new machine purchased to analyze the quality of pot?

Miller passed on the job, but offered some free advice. With her background in machinery design and lab supervision, she told the dispensary folks: “You need [to hire] a scientist because you are going to ruin that piece of equipment if you don’t know how to run it.”

The dispensary owner ignored her warning and sure enough, Miller soon received a call that the machine had gone kaput. Fed up, the owner offered to give the high-tech device to Miller if she could repair it — and would be willing to test the dispensary’s marijuana for free.

Miller fixed the machine, and her business was born.

These days, Miller employs about 10 people at Pure Analytics, a quality assurance and testing company outside of Santa Rosa. Last month, she hired four people, including two high-level scientists. Both are six-figure jobs, Miller said.

She also hired field sample technicians — employees who go to customer facilities and collect product to bring back to the lab. The job requires workers to have a bachelor of science degree, she said, and employees earn between $40,000 and $55,000 annually, depending on “how many years out of school and how wet they are behind the ears.”

More than a year and a half has passed since Californians legalized the adult use of recreational marijuana, and since then, pot has become one of

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