Job interest high for coming medical marijuana industry

State anticipates over 6,000 workers

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Last edited 12:45 p.m., Dec. 19, 2019

With one month until the state is expected to announce winners of medical marijuana business licenses, potential employers are beginning to round up their staffs.

Many say the interest for a job in the industry is high.

Of the 2,163 applications submitted to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the state will grant licenses to 24 dispensaries in each congressional district and 60 cultivators and 86 infused-product manufacturers statewide. That will lead to the creation of 6,000 to 8,000 jobs in Missouri, said Lisa Cox, DHSS communications director.

Nationwide, more than 211,000 full-time workers have been employed through the recreational and medicinal marijuana industries, according to the 2019 Cannabis Jobs Count by cannabis website Leafly. That number nears 300,000 with indirect jobs and the full-time employees who are dependent on the industry, according to the report.

The jobs
Those in the burgeoning industry will look to fill jobs with a wide range of skills.

Jack Cardetti, spokesman for Missouri cannabis association MoCannTrade, said the dispensaries will need to fill retail positions, and cultivation facilities will need to arrange a team of product growers. Infused-product manufacturing businesses will be looking for technicians with manufacturing experience, and other potential jobs vary depending on the business model, he said. MoCannTrade has more than 350 members statewide.

A search on the Indeed job site shows ads for head growers, telemedicine physicians, general managers for dispensaries and horticulture experts in Missouri.

The state requires employees to undergo a criminal background check by submitting a copy of their fingerprints to the state, according to the Missouri Register. Employees also must obtain an agent identification card through the state, which costs $75, and have it in their possession while at work.

On the lookout
MoCannTrade recently held a series of job fairs in Springfield, Kansas City and St. Louis, where potential employers met with interested employees.

Around 75 jobseekers and 10 potential employers came to the Springfield job fair on the icy night of Nov. 11. Cardetti said hundreds of employees also participated in the St. Louis and Kansas City fairs.

“We know a lot of people want to be in this industry,” said Cardetti, who also consulted on the Amendment 2 language that voters passed in November 2018. “When our members get licenses, they’re going to have to, first, quickly turn their attention to building out their facilities in a safe and secure manner. … Second is building their workforce. These job fairs were meant to create an opportunity so that they have a stack of resumes.”

One of the entrepreneurs to attend all three job fairs was Joe Leonard of Bee Valley Farms LLC, a potential cultivation center located in tiny Bunker, east of Fort Leonard Wood. Leonard said he’s already assembled a six-person leadership team, but he’s looking for employees to work in sales – a position, he said, that can be done from anywhere in the state.

“We just really need worker bees that are willing to work hard, to train to learn and come up to speed,” Leonard said.

The Bee Valley Farms leadership team comprises Leonard as CEO, a marketing director, head grower, compliance and inventory director, security director and sales director, he said.

With an anticipated annual operating budget of $2.5 million, Leonard said he plans to pay the sales director at least $150,000, including a base salary and commission. He expects full-time sales representatives to earn $75,000 a year, including projected commissions.

Leonard said he received several resumes from the MoCannTrade job fairs, which he’ll be considering over the next month.

“I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw,” he said. “I hope that we’re able to capitalize on that for Missouri’s sake, opposed to these other companies coming from out-of-state and bringing their own workforce.”

Waiting game
Some potential employers say it’s too soon to even think about hiring.

Desmond Morris, owner of The Wholesome Bud Co. LLC, also attended the job fair but said it’s too early to know how many employees he’ll hire if he gets the cultivation, infused-product manufacturing and dispensary licenses.

“Until you know which licenses you’re awarded, you don’t know what scope your business is going to be,” he said.

Morris said he was surprised by the turnout of the Springfield job fair, noting several he met had traveled over 100 miles to attend.

“People are very excited about the opportunity and want to be involved,” Morris said.

James Yagielo, CEO of Florida-based marijuana employee recruiter and trainer HempStaff, said dispensary owners will have plenty of time once they receive a license to hire their team.

“Even though licenses will be issued in January, it takes a long time to build out a facility,” he said, noting it usually takes six months to create a cultivation facility. “All the other licenses are dependent on that first harvest of cannabis. Dispensaries can’t do much until there’s product to sell.”

Jamie Tillman, owner of cannabidiol operator CannaBliss LLC, said she’s in no rush to hire employees for her potential business.

“I don’t want to interview people and give them an unrealistic expectation that we need them, because I just don’t know,” she said.

Tillman said she’s received interest from potential job candidates who have walked into her CannaBliss CBD store to leave resumes for her.

She already has a pharmacist and security guard hired on to her operation. She said she currently has a staff of six across the CannaBliss locations and will be shuffling employees to fill the new positions. She’s expecting to hire 15 full-time employees at her two potential dispensaries, including two employees who fill prescriptions and five budtenders, who handle the product.

“It’s going to be very hard to find employees for CBD because everyone wants to switch,” she said, noting that’s going to be the hardest employee challenge she expects to face.