To say Eric Eslao took a significant pay-cut when he made the leap from Apple to his own cannabis company in 2016 would be an understatement.

“I took about a 45 percent cut in my compensation,” says Eslao, who spent more than six years as a producer for Apple before launching California’s Défoncé Chocolatier edibles company.

“Obviously being at the No. 1 company in high tech and content came with its benefits ... but, in 2016, I definitely saw the opportunity in cannabis and knew it was something you had to enter early to make an impact.”

While Défoncé Chocolatier has gone on to become a well-known national brand within the cannabis space, Eslao admits there were certainly some anxieties tangled up in that initial jump into such uncharted – not to mention legally iffy – territory.

But Eslao’s experience is far from isolated. A new report from New Frontier Data suggests that nearly half of cannabis industry professionals took a cut in pay to join the burgeoning industry. Around 35 percent indicated that cut was major.

While Eslao says this kind of thing is relatively commonplace whenever someone leaves a prosperous industry to start their own business, there’s an additional element of peril to abandoning a guaranteed paycheck in favor of joining the cannabis space.  

“I have colleagues that went from established corporate jobs to start-ups in artificial intelligence or cryptocurrency, and even if they took a pay-cut, it’s just not as much a risk or a leap of faith than it is going from tech to cannabis – for a lot of reasons beyond the monetary aspect,” says Eslao.

“We all hope things are moving in the right direction with [federal] administration and that state laws and local laws don’t jeopardize our freedoms and rights, but [the risk of things not working out that way] is something all of us know moving into this industry.”

With that in mind, says Eslao, it takes a “certain type of person” to make such a move – a person who is not only deeply passionate about the cannabis industry, but who “really truly believes in the industry and the product.”

“I commend everyone that has done it and I really hope it pans out for everyone that has,” he says, adding: “the more people we have moving into the industry the better, as there’s safety in numbers.”

Risks and financial dips aside, Eslao says he’s never regretted making the jump from Apple to Défoncé Chocolatier; largely because there is simply “so much room to innovate” in the cannabis industry.

“When I was working at Apple from 2010 to 2016, everything I was working on was at the frontier [of the tech world]. We were pushing the limits of what was capable, not only from a hardware perspective, but from software and design and marketing perspective. It was a pivotal time in the company’s history,” says Eslao.

“It’s really amazing to be able to do that same kind of trailblazing work with cannabis.”