Cannabis Companies Are Hiring, But Businesses Still Face Challenges.
While other industries are suffering losses during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, cannabis has been deemed an "essential good". The industry is now hiring to meet a new type of demand.
It's been a scary time for entrepreneurs in America. Some industries have screeched to a halt for stay-at-home orders in the midst of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Innovative industries, like video conferencing and at-home delivery, are skyrocketing due to their necessity. A handful of unlikely industries are seeing success because they have been deemed essential, against all odds.
Cannabis is one of them.
"In spite of the global pandemic, the industry isn't going away, nor is it losing momentum," says Devin Penhall, Director of Client Strategy at ForceBrands, a national, cross-industry job recruiting and employer database with a cannabis-centric hiring platform called HerbForce. "Companies are continuing to build out their teams to help drive future growth. While other consumer sectors are placing temporary hiring holds on certain positions during this time, cannabis continues to gain traction when it comes to hiring."
Cannabis has been deemed an essential good in many legal markets, but not all. The government agencies in charge of each state have made distinctions with medical cannabis stores versus adult-use. At the time of this writing, 8 states and provinces have deemed cannabis essential for adult-use and medical use, MJBizDaily reports. 20 more states have said they will allow medical marijuana stores to continue to operate.
"Many consumers are reliant on cannabis now more than ever to help them cope with this new reality," says Penhall. "Cannabis is also essential as it's medicinal. Its beneficial properties that help ease anxiety and improve sleep continue to be essential as we navigate an uncertain climate that none of us have ever experienced before."
"It's important to remember that just as people are purchasing alcoholic beverages and groceries, people also want and need cannabis during this time."
- Devin Penhall, Director of Client Strategy at ForceBrands
Here are ways industry leaders are adapting, hiring to meet a new type of demand, and some of the challenges these seismic shifts are having on their business.
Storefronts remain agile, pivot roles to meet demand
"Companies need to be prepared to be nimble and to adjust their business plans, should changes affect the supply chain," adds ForceBrand's Penhall. "Remaining agile is paramount in today's rapidly evolving climate that changes day-to-day and state-by-state."
Lightshade, a vertically-integrated cannabis company based in Colorado that has amassed 8 locations since its 2011 founding, is doing just that. The store is finally allowed by the state to offer consumers online ordering and curbside pick-up for the first time.
While Lightshade expressed its need to hire more employees onto its operations team to meet demand, a strict shut-down of the state's badge approval regulatory process has made that a unique challenge.
"We are eager to hire front of line staff, as well as greenhouse employees, but the biggest challenge is that we have to hire people who are already badged by the state," says Lisa Gee, Director of Marketing & CSR at Lightshade. "Our greenhouse is operating on three shifts, which includes overnight as well. We’re packaging, trimming, and working to get enough flower to the stores to enable access for consumers and patients. We have seen an increase in our sales, particularly in flower, but across the board with other consumption methods as well."
Curb-side pick-up just went into effect last week but then has been amended to allow consumers and patients to buy in-store once again. The quick crisis-shifts coming from the regulatory bodies signal a need for cannabis businesses to be ready to pivot. "Governor Polis’ executive order allowing curbside delivery for adult-use customers was a gift and a challenge. Implementing something of this magnitude would normally take our operations team several weeks or months to plan and de-bug," says Gee. "But we were able to work together as a company to turn this around overnight."
Online ordering has also been a "boon", says Gee, but the increase in online demand has slowed down the rest of the store's processes.
"What we’re seeing within the legal cannabis industry is our resilience and our ability to pivot quickly, attributes we’ve had to have since day one," says Gee. "We have been dealing with daily announcements from the state and local governments that affect our ability to operate. We are seeing that the quicker you can realign as a company is indicative of how well we’re going to get through this."
Cannabis companies hiring to keep employees safe
On the East Coast, Ilera Healthcare runs a wholesale cultivator and a dispensary storefront business in Pennsylvania.
"For our dispensary business, the demand has been robust in this environment," Lisa Gray, Ilera Healthcare's CFO, tells Green Entrepreneur. "Access to medical marijuana is a high priority for the patients we serve. Their response has been overwhelmingly positive for the professional approach, increased and stringent sanitation procedures Ilera implemented, and our maintaining hours in order to meet market demand."
Part of the company's current hiring efforts exist in order to give their existing staff paid sick time-off if needed, Gray explains.
"As part of our procedures, any employees who have a temperature or who don’t feel well or have any known exposure to the virus or to sick individuals, we ask them not to report to work until cleared," says Gray. "With these factors, we have been hiring additional Wellness Associates and Pharmacists to ensure we can continue to meet or exceed our customer expectations in the safest way possible."
"Shift work and employing cycling strategies have been implemented to keep our employees safe."
- Lisa Gray, Ilera Healthcare
"Our team is actively driving the implementation of on-line ordering and on-line payment (via the CanPay app) to promote the continued availability of product to our patients and caregivers in a very safe manner," says Gray. "We are striving to provide the same high-quality experience in a ‘socially distant’ manner to ensure safety for our customers and employees."
"These in-house and pick-up options for our customers require additional personnel to manage through this period," explains Gray. But she adds that the streamlining and innovative movement within the store provides, "a very effective and efficient process going forward."
"In addition, we have our second dispensary opening in Lancaster, PA, so we are actively looking for staff at this location."
Delivery, cultivation, digital marketing roles are hiring
"Most cannabis businesses are ramping up hiring as it relates to delivery and fulfillment — any jobs to help get cannabis to consumers has become an essential and immediate hire for these companies," Penhall explains. His company's cannabis division HerbForce is currently looking to hire candidates for numerous C-suite and executive positions for a handful of brands that are preparing to launch. What roles? Penhall says cultivation, digital marketing, and finance roles, among others.
No piece of the cannabis puzzle is in higher demand than delivery. E-commerce company Jane Technologies' data found stores with delivery-only as seeing the biggest overall jump in average daily sales. In the past week, sales increased 46 percent since this time in February and 115 percent since this time in January for delivery companies. The company also found new users who are online ordering increased a whopping 142 percent since February.
"With fewer people visiting dispensaries, delivery efforts have ramped up exponentially. There's going to be a huge influx in demand for delivery drivers and for digital marketers to optimize brand visibility for these delivery services," Penhall explains.
While the needs of consumers are shifting, the storefronts aren't going anywhere soon. "Dispensaries are still open and sales have been so strong in recent weeks that budtenders have become increasingly popular roles," says Penhall. "Finance and operations functions are also critically important as companies manage budgets and allocate resources to keep up with this demand."
Additional cannabis companies that are currently hiring
Curaleaf is hiring widely across the country, operating stores across 17 states.
Sales positions are currently open for Ma'at Botanicals.
MedMen is hiring delivery drivers and hospitality associates.
Good Chemistry is hiring cultivators, trimmer, packagers, and budtenders.
GTI Grows is hiring operational, marketing, managerial, and patient care specialists.