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A career in cannabis is a dream for many people across the world. For cannabis companies, though, the simple fact that they work in cannabis can be a non-starter for countless potential employees, according to Jacob Carlson, co-founder and CEO of EzHire Cannabis

“You’re at a huge deficit in my opinion by working in the cannabis industry,” Carlson said, explaining that “it's actually a huge hindrance. There are a ton of people who want to work in the cannabis industry but a lot more who don't want to work in the cannabis industry.”

Speaking to Rootwurks this week, Carlson stated that he doesn’t think this is because cannabis is still illegal under federal law or due to the stigma surrounding cannabis; rather, certain people are just predisposed not to look for jobs in cannabis. 

“You just cross out so many people from your candidate pool if you work in the cannabis industry. So many people would never consider doing it, ever. So overall, how many applicants can you get?”

Earlier in his career, Carlson was employed by the software company Hubspot while working part-time in temporary staffing for cannabis cultivation. 

Carlson said that while the temporary staffing made good money, “it was a bloodbath,” and “we literally had every nightmare scenario you could imagine.”

Carlson said that in 2021 he and a colleague in Seattle decided to build a tech-enabled service that worked in staffing for what he described as “7 or 8 of the top 20 or so cannabis businesses.”   

Ultimately, Carlson said they realized they needed to build a software platform of their own, and in February 2022, EzHire launched. 

According to the EzHire website, the founders “started our journey in the fields of Maine in 2018 as Fortuna Business Solutions, standing shoulder to shoulder with harvesters. You probably wouldn't believe us if we told you we hitchhiked to get there.”

The company states that by “leveraging the technology background of our co-founders, we aim to give employers and candidates a breakthrough experience - a more complete way to connect beyond a paper resume.”

Carlson estimates that around 100 people sign up for the platform daily, and about 50% of them have no experience in cannabis. Carlson added that a very high percentage are not from legal cannabis states but are willing to move to work in the industry. 

The company has three different pricing tiers listed online. There is the “start” level for small businesses looking to hire 5-10 people per year, “Grow,” which is targeted at multi-location companies that hire 10-25 people per year, and “Scale” for companies with five or more locations who hire more than 25 people per year. 

But the company points out that they are not recruiters; they are a software company that helps people find jobs in cannabis. 

The company maintains a database of candidate profiles. But unlike other sites, it includes video profiles for candidates, automated interview scheduling, and “active search” for talented industry professionals who are already employed but may be interested in prospective job opportunities in cannabis.  

The types of jobs that these applicants are mainly looking for include store manager, budtender, cultivation tech, and cultivation manager, according to Carlson.   

High turnover “continues to plague cannabis retail”

In the new Cannabiz Team cannabis industry salaries guide, the authors predict that 2023 will see the industry add 108,000 new cannabis jobs across the country, bringing the total to more than 600,000 by 2024. 

According to a 2022 report by the cannabis analysis firm Headset, the annual turnover rate in cannabis dispensaries for bartenders was about 55%, and nearly a quarter did not complete the first month of their job. 

An MJBizDaily article from August 24 asserted that high turnover among budtenders is “a problem that has ramifications for the industry beyond just the immediate costs. Budtenders are the first point of contact for consumer education and are often the best bet a marijuana brand has for getting the word out about a product.”

According to Carlson, one reason that turnover is so high in cannabis is that “it’s kind of a sexy job and one of those jobs where people think it’s different than it actually is.”

He added, “a lot of people don't realize it's a retail job, and if you didn't like your job at Target or Home Depot, you probably aren’t going to like your job at the dispensary. And if you didn’t like your job in agriculture, produce, or something like that, then you won't like it in cannabis either. That's my number one reason why I think retention is hard.  There aren't that many people with experience, and they make it a sexier job than it actually is.''

Cannabis education is crucial

On the company website, EzHire lists “never stop learning” as one of the company’s core values. According to Carlson, education is key to retention and creating a positive cannabis retail workplace. 

“You should probably train them better because nobody wants to feel like they’re sitting at a job and are being asked questions to which they don't have answers. To me, another big reason people leave [retail cannabis] is that they are not trained and qualified enough. No one wants to be sitting at a job and not know how to answer questions.” 

In cannabis, is it still the 80s?

While online platforms like EzHire can make all the difference for would-be cannabis professionals, Carlson notes that some of the job-hunting principles from a generation or two before still hold true. 

Carlson said that attending networking events is vital and that “the reality is that in cannabis, you gotta go out there and shake hands and meet people and shake hands and see what the vibe is.”

“It’s the 80s,” he added.  

Carlson said that a cannabis job seeker should focus on “bettering yourself through education and learning development that makes you a better candidate.” 

Carlson stated that job seekers are “probably going to be expected to work longer hours. It’s much more like a startup environment than anything else I can compare it to.”

But they should also keep one main thing in mind. 

“Make sure you actually want to work in the industry. You have to be willing to probably make sacrifices to work in cannabis.”

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Ben Hartman, Content Manager

Ben Hartman is a cannabis writing and marketing professional with over 15 years of experience in journalism and digital content creation. Ben was formerly the senior writer and research and analysis lead for The Cannigma.

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