Cannabis trade magazine Marijuana Business Daily estimates that the value of New Jersey’s cannabis industry will quickly reach over $2 billion now that cannabis is legal for all adults over the age of 21. For those numbers to be realized, cannabis businesses in New Jersey will need to do some hiring. They will need people to grow the cannabis, process the cannabis, package the cannabis and sell the cannabis, not to mention deliver the cannabis.
Matt Harrell, vice president of the New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association and vice president of government relations at Curaleaf, said that while it’s hard to determine exact numbers, an adult cannabis dispensary could hire 50 people and a large-scale cultivation facility could create a few hundred jobs.
“While each licensee will need to determine their own employment needs, the retail portion alone will create several hundred New Jersey dispensary jobs. With cultivation, processing, and even administrative jobs considered, the adult use market is going to be a huge job creator for our state,” said Shaya Brodchandel, CEO of Harmony Dispensary.
The New Jersey CannaBusiness Association recently announced a collaboration with CareersinCannabis.com, a comprehensive, industry-specific job board, with the goal of connecting potential employees and employers.
At the time, NJCBA President Edmund Deveaux said, “As the market continues to grow, it will be crucial for companies to find the talent needed to succeed in their business. We believe that this collaboration will help play an important role in this process.
Many people want to start a career in the cannabis industry. The business is “extremely competitive,” according to Harrell, and the lure of working in an industry that until recently was so taboo has a certain sex appeal. Several organizations and colleges have developed training programs for individuals wishing to enter the industry, and the original Cannabis Regulatory Commission rules released on August 19, 2021 set out a set of training requirements that employees who touch plants must receive their employee identification card.
The rules, which have yet to be enforced, require an employee who touches plants to complete an educational program that covers, at a minimum, several topics: history of cannabis use, prohibition and legalization; common cultivation techniques and strain-cultivar varieties; cannabis chemotypes; packaging, labeling and advertising; growing and manufacturing processes; health education regarding the risks of cannabis use and overuse, including cannabis dependence; the medical use of cannabis; and cannabis laws and rules.
“The industry is so multifaceted. If you want to work as a dispensary, you cannot just know the name of the product. You have to know how to interact with patients. You need to understand how this plant or product was grown. You must be able to explain how this product was tested. People will ask, “How was this vape cartridge made?” the cannabis industry, including entry-level jobs in cultivation, manufacturing, testing lab technicians, and dispensary attendants.
NJCC’s five-module program is taught live on Zoom for five nights by industry professionals like Trent and academics like Thomas Gianfagna, professor of plant biology at Rutgers University. Trent cobbled together the program between submitting her application for a medical cannabis dispensary during the 2019 request for applications and the day when nearly two and a half years later she was granted a license.
The 13th cohort of the program begins next month and nearly 1,000 students have achieved NJCC certification so far. Trent said it’s hard for her to put a number on the number of graduate students in the cannabis industry, but she said she has alumni at “almost every establishment” that touches the New York plant. Jersey, named Rise, Garden State Dispensary and TerrAscend, in particular.
Programs like Trent’s fill a void in industry training because each state’s cannabis laws are different.
“You can go to Colorado and work in a dispensary and that’s valuable experience, but you shouldn’t have to. You should be able to get the basics of what you need to know and use the experience you already have working in New Jersey. I always tell people, “Use the skills you already have. If you have worked in a restaurant, worked in retail, you can work in a dispensary. You almost certainly used a POS system,” Trent said.
Minority Cannabis Academy, a Dutchie and Harmony Dispensary-sponsored cannabis education program for minorities in Jersey City that kicks off in July, aims to educate minorities to be plant-touching employees, and will do so for free. The NJCC’s five-week course will cost students $500, and the University of Stockton’s six-course certificate in cannabis studies costs students $1,995; but MCA was designed to help minorities in disenfranchised communities enter and grow in the world of cannabis, and students are sponsored by major cannabis operators who cover the expenses of the eight-week course.
“Our collective goal is to create a more diverse and inclusive cannabis workforce. This would include more minority ownership, employee representation and management positions. None of the aforementioned changes can occur successfully without providing individuals with the knowledge base necessary to perform the task that will be expected of them on a day-to-day basis,” explained MCA Co-Founder Brendon Robinson.
“For this ecosystem to work, we need to train potential CEOs on the ins and outs of corporate leadership and all that goes with it. We must train our budtenders so that they can serve patients and provide the highest level of customer service every time. MCA is a workforce development program that will help minorities at all stages of their lives enter the cannabis industry with a foundational knowledge base that will ensure their success. This is critical to the success of the NJ cannabis market,” he said.
MCA partner Dutchie, a cannabis e-commerce and POS company, will train MCA students on a simulation of its Leaf Logix POS system, meaning they will train on the same system that many of them will use when they start their cannabis careers. The program was created with CRC education rules in mind so that students “are able to transition into their career prospects without a hitch,” Robinson said.
When adult dispensaries are up and running and the allure of the once-taboo industry fades, how do cannabis companies retain employees?
In an August 2021 op-ed on Green Entrepreneur, founder and CEO of cannabis recruitment agency FlowerHire David Belsky said companies can retain talent by training them to support internal mobility, offering compensation and competitive advantages, fostering a good corporate culture and allowing employees to express themselves. .
“Don’t just offer what you think they would like. Ask them what they want. And use their responses to inform the benefits you provide,” Belsky wrote. “Offering a company picnic may not appeal to your employees – they may enjoy more flexibility with their schedule, more paid time off, discounts or employee events they would choose to assist when they are not working.”
Hugh Giordano, labor representative at United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 360, has been one of the most — if not the most — active voices in the conversation about working cannabis in New Jersey. Foley Hoag LLP attorney Mike McQueeny told NJBIZ in November that workers’ rights are included in cannabis laws here largely because of Giordano, who positioned himself at the meeting table. city council or cannabis-related legislative hearing that was taking place at the time. During the last decade.
Under a provision enshrined in the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act – as was the case in the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act – companies that touch plants must have entered into labor peace with a trade union organization in good faith, with the parties enter into an agreement that the employer will not oppose unionization and the union if and when it organizes the workforce, agrees not to not strike or otherwise stop work.
Giordano said employees of several New Jersey operators have unionized with UFCW over the past year, including Columbia Care, Green Thumb Industries, Justice Grown, Verano and Ascend Wellness. Garden State Dispensary employees had a head start when they unionized in 2018.
Although UFCW now has a “good relationship” with these companies, the LPA provisions in CREAMMA have not eliminated all of the pushback along the way, Giordano explained.
“Some companies are not categorically anti-union, but they are skeptical. They might be consulted by the wrong lawyers… but for the most part things are going well. We have built a strong relationship with the industry over the past decade in New Jersey,” he said.