People burning to work with marijuana are flocking to California and other states with an established pot culture to work as "budtenders" in smoke shops and cafés or as entrepreneurs in operations developing the latest cannabis products.

There is a "record exodus" of workers from corporate America to an "expanding, legal $5.4bn-and-growing weed country," reports California's East Bay Express.

The burgeoning interest in nabbing a job in the pot industry was apparent at a recent "Budtender Bash" in Oakland, where retail pot shop clerks — budtenders — who had finished shifts from nearby medical marijuana dispensaries, talked to prospective pot workers about how to find a job and what the work is like.

Budtending is a first rung on the industry ladder — similar to a fast-food cashier's job — yet it is attracting skilled and college-educated workers who want to get in on the ground floor of what is dubbed a growing "canna-business".

A New Jersey native recently moved to Oakland's Fruitvale area to gain some experience budtending, and now works at a local dispensary. "'Should I jump in now? Am I going to miss it?' That sense is getting more acute among people who would have never thought about doing this five or ten years ago," he said.

Marijuana business headhunter Danielle Schumacher, who seeks top-level workers for pot companies such as engineers, chemists and marketers, says she is inundated with qualified, interested job-seekers.

Job hunters are moving from prohibition states, living off savings, and taking big pay cuts to get into cannabis. "They're willing to do almost anything to break into the industry," she told the Express.

More than 1,200 women gathered in Denver in early February for the national female professional pot industry networking conference, WomenGROW, which featured singer Melissa Etheridge. In March, the Marijuana Investor Summit will draw thousands more to San Francisco.