Operator Cost?

Hello, I am what would be considered an amateur distiller, and I was hired out of necessity by my employer and was thrown into the world of distillate. I didnt ask any questions because I felt it was a great opportunity, and have enjoyed thoroughly educating myself on the process. Anyway long story short, I have been able to produce results and product that have been beyond satisfactory for my employer, so as a humble student of science, may I dare ask what is my actual worth to this business deal of purely being an operator? What is the standard? Is there a standard? I write this because I feel like I am being taken advantage of, but I dont want to learn later that since I did not produce the material given to me to operate with that I am just being bitter.

Thank you for your time.


Depends on your location. In the California market; an individual contributor/technician that isn’t managing is typically compensated around $16-20 an hour.

1 Like

$20/hour seems fair in WA if you’re literally just running oil.
Are you doing more than just running the oil?

I see a lot of people being taken advantage of here in WA… Be careful.

1 Like

are you replaceable? at what cost? What are others willing to pay you for performing the same tasks? are you comfortable having this discussion with your boss?

get your resume together and shop it around. ask for more than you’re currently making. go back to your current employer if you get any serious bites.

resenting your employer for underpaying you is far from ideal. but it is better than being unemployed :frowning:


If you bought the equipment and own the facility you can compensate yourself well, I justify that is the reward for the responsibility, and entrepreneurship. Key employees are expected to perform highly and responsibly, this is where the pay gradient starts. Your position and role in the company will reflect your pay. If you can be replaced easly you can make 15-20 , consider anything else negotiable. :grin:


Thanks for the replies guys. Like any situation in life you have to be prepared and know what you are getting into, and all ego aside - in the current situation I am somewhat irreplaceable (there are literally no other humans around for miles…haha), but Im sure within a few weeks bossman could find someone. (hell the guy I replaced when he left he said HAH GOOD LUCK! - which was great motivation for me to self educate myself) I just wanted to get the feel of what others were being compensated for their time. I will share that my current deal is 1 dollar per gram of output, and I am doing all filtering/winterization/evap/distilling. I did not want to approach the situation and seem arrogant or rude, but after logging my hours, definitely wasn’t exciting, so it seems like a lot of people are getting paid per hour? because on the other hand I did not purchase the equipment nor grow the material used so far in the process, but the equipment is like 4th hand used and very generic and pretty much god awful he got ripped off because he does not have the time or effort to do a simple ebay search for the cost of used goods… but I will add that I am a 50/50 partner at the garden i operate under the same umbrella of business operations. I have been a farmer for over 15 years but am very late and ‘green’ to the whole concentrate business.


Your gonna want to upgrade get some better equipment. Sounds like the guy that left didn’t have any decision making power and got fed up with doing the most with the least?


Ya the guy that took off was one of those so called ‘experts’ who thought he knew everything because he had so much pride in his work he failed to see any of the obvious flaws in his final product… after educating myself as best as I could my first ever batch came out better color/quality/yield that the prior guy ever had done and those were the words from my boss. for example…when i came in i learned everything I could about each piece of equipment even before I tried learning the process. and turned out the vac pump never had the oil changed in it… it was pure nasty… I broke the whole thing down, cleaned it all up and produced the best vac that welch 1400 has seen in years. prior guy would maybe throw a handful of ice in the cold trap and not bother with dry ice or any maintenance on any piece of equipment. real ignorant stuff.


We all started out somewhere, and at the end of the day I’ve worked with everyone from blackmarket self-educated folks to Ph.D types and the best guys I’ve met ran the whole gambit.

The very best operators I’ve met love what they do, are willing to make sacrifices, and educated themselves constantly. After that you will want to learn about engineering and how to build and operate machines on your own.

Confidence and patience. In the Northeast operators make anything from 15.00/hr to $50k/yr up to management level.

Good luck


absolutely! i am very grateful for the opportunity and love learning something new. so on one hand I can say that I got paid to basically make mistakes and learn a skill I can take with me in the future, I just wanted to make sure that the carrot wasn’t being dangled in front of my face constantly out of reach so when i do attempt to renegotiate I dont come across all ‘high and mighty like’ acting like he is the one who needs me now, im not that type of person, but if i did decide to go on strike due to unfair wages, i could probably take advantage of the situation…but like i said im not that type of person i just want everything to be fair and had no idea what the industry standard was.

1 Like

Real question is how much oil do you produce a day?
If you’re making 500-1000g a day then you should be fat chillin at $1/g that’s pretty good pay if you ask me.


Agreed, but with any business venture you have to know what you are getting into, and if you are building something together (a business partner) vs. hiring someone to work in your already setup operation. Also different industries have different standards on your profit margin. Lets say you run a gas station, no matter what the price of gas is, you know you are gonna make .2-.3 cents per gallon no matter what… or if you are a small contractor doing a roof of a home, you are gonna shoot for at least 8% profit. So in my case having a 100% hands off owner making 50% of gross profit I did not (still dont) know if that is considered an industry standard? because I am told that standard for someone to run and process material is $2 a gram, so in my boss’ head he said we are splitting that 50/50 and I just cant think of any other industry/business that has a silent/hands off owner pulling 50% of company contracts. Seems like a great plan for him, but not a great business struture for anyone working underneath. Same reason why I would never work minimum wage jobs, sure lots of people do it and legally it is considered ‘fair’ wages - but as someone stated earlier, that is the reward for entrepreneurship vs working at mcdonalds.

I work as an operator in Washington State. Currently at 20$ an hour. I can distill, run closed loops, do maintenance, and repairs. I’m the only extractor at my company.


If it’s a taking you longer to process oil because of slow, bottleneck, outdated equip. then ask to get paid by the hr. Research what better equip. might be avail. to you. Btw, it would behoove your boss to buy faster equip. And for what you are doing I would have no problem compensating you $20/hr. Also, just because you are a 50/50 partner in a garden doesn’t mean you should work for less than the processing job is worth. Keep your eyes and ears open and your nose to the grind stone. You’ll do well

Ya, luckily I work with a person who is an open book and always willing to discuss things, and are currently trying to work out a system that ensures everyone’s sanity and bills are taken care of.

with ANY business its very important to be up front and make sure your line of communication is open and the air stays clean. I say this because when I did bring up the deal, my boss did try and accuse me of acting ‘high and mighty’ because I was able to do some successful runs but I was quick to point out to him I brought this up the FIRST DAY i worked for him and mentioned that the deal should be renegotiated and he agreed as long as I was able to prove I was able to produce product, and he was like ‘oh ya… i forgot you said something that afternoon’

its important to know who you are getting in business with, what type of person they are, how you see them communicate/act/do business with others…

hell im sure all of you have read about numerous dramas in the canna business involving others becoming bitter or ignorant

Minus working at a head shop 10 years ago where the owner sold herb out the back, I have no industry experience (im a farmer), and just wanted to make sure Im not getting taken advantage of but also being a humble student of entrepreneurial opportunity.

thanks for the replies.

Well said!

I’m a little concerned by the concept of people in the cannabis business “becoming ignorant”…is it the drugs they’re on? :slight_smile:

1 Like

Wow I’m an extraction is that in Arizona working for one of the biggest distillate names here been with Company 2 years, I don’t get even close to that much money. I’d be swimming in cash a a buck a gram! Not even at 15per hour!

1 Like

Wow I’m an extractionist in Arizona, I don’t make anywhere close to that much money and I’ve been with my company for over 2 years and we’re one of the biggest companies in Arizona. At a buck a gram I’d be swimming in the money. Let’s just say that soon minimum wage will be more than I get paid

See if you can’t negotiate a commission rate?

Right to work state with no employee protection federally, basically meaning that’d probably be a very short conversation ending with my termination. For now I’ll count my blessings