With the tightening labor market, cannabis is starting to find its way into other industries. In some cases, it’s replacing traditional work while in others it’s supplementing an already existing industry.
The “labor market” is getting tight for people who are looking for work. The cannabis industry is one that has been growing in the past few years, and it will continue to grow as the labor market gets tighter.
As the pandemic-affected employment market reshapes itself, some firms have cut hours, modified how they service clients, or increased compensation and perks to tempt candidates.
Marijuana companies are among those retaining a “now hiring” sign in the window, but for different reasons than restaurants, hotels, and merchants trying to re-staff before the epidemic. Cannabis firms confront a variety of recruiting obstacles, including dealing with an influx of applicants in certain situations, seeking to achieve diversity and local employment pledges, and overcoming the stigma of a once-illegal sector.
The cannabis sector in Massachusetts has been slowly developing for five years, as growers, manufacturers, merchants, testing laboratories, delivery services, and others establish themselves and seek to spread out in the newly legal arena.
“I believe someone could come in without knowing anything about cannabis and really discover where they fit into this big milieu of the burgeoning sector and then flourish right in there,” said Sieh Samura, co-owner and CEO of the now-hiring Yamba Market in Central Square. “We’re seeing folks who are able to swiftly advance and move into other jobs.” We see individuals leave one job for a better position, possibly because they have cannabis experience from their time at another shop, and this business says, ‘hey, we really appreciate what you’ve done over there.’ Stores are really competing for the same customers.”
Despite a pandemic that imposed a two-month ban on non-medical marijuana sales, the marijuana workforce in this city has continued to grow. The Massachusetts nonmedical cannabis workforce has risen by 64 percent from the Cannabis Control Commission’s mid-September 2019 meeting, from 5,846 licensed and active “agents” to 9,607 active agents at the mid-September 2020 meeting. The staff has expanded another 65 percent to 15,869 active agents by the conference in mid-September 2021.
Massachusetts is not alone in this regard. As movements to legalize marijuana have grown throughout the nation, so have career prospects. The Washington Post reported this month that the legal cannabis industry in the United States increased by about 80,000 employment in 2020, more than double its growth in 2019.
According to the Washington Post, the marijuana sector currently employs more people than dentists, paramedics, and electrical engineers in the United States.
Before or during the epidemic, several of the newest cannabis sector workers worked in restaurant service or other high-stress occupations here and internationally. For many people who make the switch, the cannabis industry’s atmosphere might seem like “a little bit of a getaway from the unpleasantness out there,” according to Samura.
“This happens to me a lot of the time. People have been working for less than they are worth in professions and businesses that may have altered and become a bit nastier since the outbreak,” he added. “It makes natural that they would think, ‘where might I be a little more fulfilled, maybe a little safer, perhaps a little happier?’… and the cannabis sector is simply historically — people are driven to change society for the better, they tend to be a bit more positive,” Samura said. They’re pot smokers, you know.”
Commitments to hire
Staffing up isn’t as easy as posting a help needed ad and then choosing from the credentials and applications that come in as Massachusetts marijuana businesses establish themselves. Many of the operators working to achieve this objective support the state and municipal rules aimed at ensuring diversity and inclusion in the newly legal business.
Wes Ritchie, who co-founded Tree House Craft Cannabis with Ture Turnbull, stated, “In the licensing step, you go through this period where you make a lot of obligations to the municipality, you make a lot of commitments to the state, and they all derive from what the towns, the state, and CCC want.” “Right now, Ture and I are focused on putting those pledges into action.” I believe that certain operators are interested in adopting them, while others are not. We want to think of ourselves as high-quality people, and the operation we’re putting together is on show — are you going to live up to your beliefs or not?”
Companies seeking marijuana business licenses must submit diversity plans outlining how they will promote and monitor equality for women, minorities, veterans, people with disabilities, people of all gender identities, and people of all sexual orientations.
The CCC provided an example of a diversity plan in its guidance for prospective applicants: “The applicant plans to have a staff composed of 60 percent women, 50 percent people of color, particularly Black, African American, Hispanic, Latinx, and Indigenous people, 25 percent veterans, 10% people with disabilities, and 10% LGBTQ+ people.”
Marijuana firms are required to engage into host community agreements with municipalities, which might contain a stipulation mandating the company to provide employment to people of the municipality. While local residence “may be one of many positive considerations in recruiting,” the CCC cautions that it “should not preclude the [company] from employing the best qualified individuals or impede compliance with Massachusetts Anti-Discrimination and Employment Laws.” The objective for Tree House’s first retail facility in Dracut is for half of the staff to be Dracut locals.
Despite the fact that Ritchie and Turnbull expect to open the shop in the coming weeks, they said they have focused on diversity and fairness in recruiting during the years-long licensing process. According to Ritchie, 80 percent of the company’s leadership team falls into at least one of the five categories that the CCC requires businesses to consider.
“From the beginning, when Wes and I founded this organization, we instilled our beliefs in it. “As a result, we’ve been recruiting for the last three years… our general contractor is a woman-owned business, and our security agency is veteran-owned,” Turnbull said. “We believe that diversity makes us stronger when we reach out to the community.” This isn’t merely a state regulation to us. It’s something we’re quite proud of.”
Tree House Craft Cannabis, as an LGBT-owned company, aims to demonstrate that it is possible to be successful in the cannabis industry while also having a diverse staff and providing new chances for others.
“You can’t be it if you can’t see it,” Ritchie said, “and a lot of the people at the top of these firms aren’t usually diverse in the manner the CCC needs.” “I believe it is critical that we model that conduct ourselves, particularly as an LGBT-owned business.” We want people to perceive themselves in this profession, which is difficult when it’s a new industry with few individuals who look like them.”
Getting rid of the stigma
Despite the fact that it has been five years since a majority of voters approved the legalization and normalization of marijuana, operators said there is still a stigma associated with the industry that prevents some people from seeking employment in a field that has been illegal for decades and remains so at the federal level.
Turnbull stated, “We were chatting to this one lady who was scared to get out of her vehicle because she had never actually gone to a dispensary and so she had to build up the nerve to come.” “I believe it would be very beneficial to us if the state took the lead in teaching people about this business.”
Samura, an Iraq War veteran, said he is eager to hire other veterans, but that other veterans are reluctant or concerned that working in the marijuana sector could jeopardize their federal benefits.
“There is a lot of stigma, particularly among veterans and soldiers,” he added, “but the fact is that this sector is here for their benefit as well.” “Many of them have been discouraged from associating with cannabis,” Samura said. … it’s a challenge I’ve always had as a veteran, trying to help other veterans in an environment where we haven’t been encouraged to engage at all.”
As he prepares to launch Yamba Market and his wife, Leah, prepares to establish Yamba Boutique, Samura expressed concern that many individuals engaged in the illegal cannabis market have not been able to transition to the legal side of things.
As someone who spent years in the illegal market before making the shift to the legal sector, Samura said he wanted to “urge others from the unlicensed side to join into this industry” by demonstrating that the transition is doable.
“It’s terrible because I’m just one business owner right now, and I’m very acquainted with all of the harm that cannabis prohibition has caused out here, as well as all of the individuals who want to help change it,” he added. “It’s one of the most difficult elements for me; how can I persuade more individuals to switch from unlicensed to licensed business?” That’s one of the issues I deal with on a daily basis.”