ebook: How to Recruit the Right Cannabis Employees: Best Practices for Finding Top Talent to Grow Your Business

It is estimated that by 2025, federal legalization will create $128.8 billion in additional tax revenue and 1.63 million legal cannabis jobs in the U.S. Cannabis Industry Journal


2019 was an incredible year for the cannabis industry. There were numerous mergers and acquisitions, multi-state expansions, new state licensing, and a surge of new jobs created. To keep up with ongoing growth and consumer demand, cannabis businesses work tirelessly to hire new employees.

But, despite the significant progress the industry has made, it continues to struggle to find and retain great talent. Cannabis’ infamous reputation continues to precede it, often making the industry attractive to unsavory characters who have no experience and a false impression of their job role. Competition within the industry is also very high, which means a new employee can easily leave a cannabis business within just a few months if a competing business offers a better salary and benefits.

For cannabis businesses to hire the right talent and beat out the competition, they need to find qualified, reliable, and loyal employees who are passionate about the industry and desire growing with the business. But where do you start? How can your cannabis business attract and recruit top talent?

In this ebook, you will learn best practices that can change your recruiting and hiring process for the better. Instead of focusing on quickly filling a job, you will learn how to attract employees that will add value to your business, enhance the company’s culture, and contribute to operational success. Moreover, learning how to recruit top talent can only help decrease the high turnover rate present in the cannabis industry and increase retention at your cannabis business.

Best Practices for Recruiting New Employees 

If you’re posting the same job description to same job site, asking the same questions during an interview, and rushing to fill a new job without proper planning and input from your team, you will likely continue to see the same disappointing results. Consider rethinking your recruiting process and get the results you’ve always wanted.

Use the following best practices to help attract and recruit your ideal employees.

Focus on defining your ideal employee, in addition to the job role.

There are a number of reasons businesses hire a new employee – to replace a lost employee, fill a void, or positions open due to sudden growth, etc. However, posting a job description reactively can be counterintuitive. Filling a role is important, but surrounding yourself with a great team is more critical. Before posting an ad, know what you’re looking for in a new employee and what that person can bring to the table.

Ideal employee examples by role:

Budtrimmer Budtender
Passion for the
cannabis industry
Knowledge with
cannabis products
detail oriented
Customer service
& sales experience
Satisfied with
manual labor
Personable, able to
build customer rapport
Interested in
career advancement
Passion for
continuous education

Once you define the ideal employee, ensure you list the characteristics in the job description. If you have a hiring team, ensure they know what is expected of an open position and candidates that apply.

Rework job descriptions.

A well-thought-out job description shows that you care about the role you’re seeking to fill and that you take the job seriously — just as you would want from candidates responding to the ad. Review the job descriptions you have on file and rework them to include more information about your company, benefits, and the ideal candidate.

Elements to include in a job description:

  • Your company description, values, and culture
  • The ideal employee characteristics
  • Specific goals, expectations, and job responsibilities
  • Skills, requirements, and any state-mandated prerequisites
  • Benefits, perks, and compensation


Consider multiple channels for posting jobs.

Don’t limit posting your available positions to your website. Use social media like LinkedIn and cannabis-friendly job platforms like Indeed or ZipRecruiter to post job ads. You should also leverage association memberships like the National Cannabis Industry Association or the National Association of Cannabis Businesses to advertise jobs.

If you have a small cannabis business, the application process can easily become overwhelming. Consider working with a staffing agency or professional employer organization (PEO) to manage the process instead. They will work with you to post available jobs to credible channels, vet potential candidates, conduct initial screenings, and then send you a qualified list of candidates for you to interview and hire.

Research outside the industry for expertise.

It can be challenging to find candidates with experience in the cannabis industry, especially for entry-level positions. Oftentimes, businesses receive several resumés of candidates passionate about the industry, but have no experience and little to offer in terms of skillsets. This is why it’s important to also seek candidates outside the industry. For a grower, someone with experience in commercial agriculture could likely transition into cannabis. Similarly, someone with customer service experience preferably from a highly regulated industry (i.e. banking or pharmaceuticals) would be a great addition for a dispensary.

Here are just a few relevant industries and experience that transition well into cannabis:

  • Medical office – Budtender
  • Social work – Budtender
  • Science background – Extraction technician
  • Food service – Lead edibles chef
  • Horticulture – Lead cultivator


Tread lightly on hiring friends and family.

It may seem like a good idea to hire friends and family because they are already close to you and know you, but doing so can have detrimental impacts on your business if they don’t work out. Oftentimes, friends and family believe that the rules created for others don’t apply to them, so they don’t take operating procedures seriously. Feeling as if they can cut corners without consequences can cause tension between you and your staff. And, if you have to terminate them, it might impact your relationship. Are you willing to risk losing a friendship or family tie should the unfortunate occur?

Don’t get me wrong, if you know your relative or friend has a powerful work ethic and would likely never jeopardize your business, then by all means hire them. In the end, you want to work with people you trust, who you know will work well with you and the rest of your staff.

Rethink the interview process.

The interview is the time where you get to meet the candidate and learn if they are a good fit for your business. But, keep in mind, the interview is a candidate’s first impression of your cannabis business as well. You will want to rethink your interview process to ensure you get the most out of this time, while also providing enough insight and information for your candidate.

Keep the following in mind to elevate your interview process:

  • Make sure you are responsive with communications leading up to an interview and that you and your hiring team are punctual to scheduled calls and meetings. Often candidates will “go cold” if they feel they are not a priority. They believe it’s a direct reflection of how they will be treated once they are hired.
  • Talk about the company’s mission, values, and culture, so the candidate gets an understanding of the work environment and how your business stands out from its competitors.
  • Explain the exact job duties, responsibilities, and what they would experience day-to-day. This will help prevent any misunderstandings and assumptions on what the role requires. It also helps eliminate candidates who aren’t a good fit for the role.
  • Ask open-ended questions to get a sense for the candidate’s personality and work ethic. If the candidate has never worked in the cannabis industry, ask he or she why they want to start now. This will allow you to differentiate those who are passionate about the role with your company and those who just want to collect a paycheck and benefits until they find the next best opportunity.


Offer a competitive salary & benefits.

Your business can easily save money on overhead by offering minimum wage to entry-level employees and the minimum salary requirements for mid- to high-level positions. However, these restrictions will likely make it difficult to hire loyal and reliable employees. Also, keep in mind that the cost to replace those employees if they leave can cost as much as 50 percent of their salary. To ensure you’re attracting and retaining the best talent, offer a competitive salary and benefits. Research salary scales based on the business’ location and offer employees a competitive salary based on skillset, experience, and the market average.

If you’re a small cannabis business and can’t afford offering a competitive salary with benefits, then consider offering perks like free or discounted product, paid training/education courses, conference/tradeshow attendance opportunities, flexible vacations and work schedule, or telecommuting work. 

Conduct a pre-employment screening.

The cannabis industry is highly regulated, so it’s no surprise that hiring employees requires conducting background checks and verifying employee eligibility. The last thing you need is for the government to shut down your business because you failed at complying with hiring laws.

Next time, you have a potential new hire, conduct a pre-employment screening. It can help protect both your business and the cannabis industry itself by ensuring that only the best candidates get hired.

What’s included in a pre-employment screening:

  • A social security trace
  • Criminal and civil records search
  • Professional license investigation
  • A search through National Record Locator
  • A search through National Sex Offender Registry
  • A restricted party search

Candidates who have previously worked in the cannabis industry are also checked for any prior compliance issues.

Moving the Industry Forward

The competition for finding great talent in the cannabis industry is significant and your business can’t afford being a revolving door for employment. Your business also can’t continue spending time and resources on candidates who lack expertise and are simply a poor fit for the company. For a cannabis business to overcome hiring challenges and thrive in a highly competitive environment, management must know how and where to recruit the right employees who will help move both your business and the cannabis industry forward.

But, being successful at recruiting and hiring for your cannabis business doesn’t happen overnight. Working with a PEO can make it possible to build a stronger, dynamic workforce. PEOs work with HR departments and managerial teams to attract, recruit, and retain employees. They provide guidance on how to recruit the best talent, from creating a hiring strategy to posting open positions to credible platforms that are proven to deliver optimal results. A PEO is also well versed in cannabis hiring regulations and employee law and is able to ensure your business stays compliant throughout the recruiting and hiring process.

Considering hiring a PEO? Partner with OROleafHR. They not only handle day-to-day human resources administration like payroll and benefits, but they are also skilled in developing effective recruiting, onboarding, and training plans as well as talent management and employee retention programs- just for the cannabis industry. OROleafHR will help your business offload its HR workload, while keeping your business compliant and enabling your business to maintain a healthy, productive workforce.

Build a Better Workforce, Contact OROleafHR.

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