When Pam Fenstermacher, 27, tells people she works at Cannabis City, she’s surprised by the interest and fascination that surface.
When Pam Fenstermacher, 27, tells people where she works, she’s surprised by the interest and fascination that surface. “People open up and ask me questions about recreational cannabis,” she says. “When I mention Cannabis City, mostly I get ‘very cool!’ ”
Fenstermacher is a manager at Cannabis City, a Sodo-based recreational cannabis shop. She moved here from California this year, after working for a medical marijuana business. “I really enjoy sharing my knowledge about strains with others and informing newbies about the different experiences marijuana can really offer.”
With the legalization of marijuana in Washington, professionalism has followed. “We set up a new industry in a short period of time,” says David Rheins, the CEO and founder of the Marijuana Business Alliance (MJBA).
“The ‘green rush’ extends well beyond the first three buckets: growers, processors, and retailers,” says Rheins, whose organization recently sponsored a job fair in Bellevue. The fair included hiring businesses, as well as job seekers who practiced 60-second elevator pitches on stage.
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While farmers are busy harvesting and retailers are selling, support jobs are booming, too. Job boards and the MJBA fair feature diverse positions such as lighting specialists, soil scientists, marketing and packaging experts, administrative positions, security guards, financial and legal consultants, plus regulatory jobs, such as state licensing specialists.
High consumer demand has been artificially constrained by laws, Rheins says, and now the industry is playing catch-up.
Washington now has 131 active marijuana retail licenses, according to the Washington State Liquor Control Board website. Co-op style medical marijuana dispensaries converting to retail stores will drive growth in “budtenders,” or retail staff, according to Rheins.
About 10 résumés are dropped off per month at Cannabis City’s Sodo location, and 20 people a month or so inquire about positions, says James Lathrop, the owner of Cannabis City. The business employs 15 people, mostly in retail.
Must you partake?
Do you need to smoke to serve? “If you don’t like food, why would you work in restaurant? If you don’t like wine, why would you work in winery?” Rheins asks. It’s a passionate industry, and real experience matters in retail, he says.
“There are lots of people who are really curious about what this is all about,” Fenstermacher says. She educates customers about “taking cannabis as an edible versus a smoke or vaporization, or the different expected effects from indica, sativa [strains] or hybrids,” she says.
Outside retail, though, it’s a slightly different story. Even if Marco Hoffman has to recruit from other industries, he wants the right person for the job. Hoffman is CEO of Evergreen Herbal, a manufacturer of cannabis edibles and beverages. In the past year, Evergreen Herbal has doubled in size, and added 30 percent more staff in the past few months, he says.
“It’s easier to teach cannabis than to teach professionalism,”Hoffman says. “Our accounting department doesn’t know very much about the cannabis industry at all, but they make sure our bills get paid and lights stay on.”
Evergreen Herbal advertises in the classifieds as a “wholesale food manufacturing company.” In the vetting process, Evergreen discloses its cannabis company status, to discover any objections.
In the interview, Hoffman asks, “Do you smoke cannabis?” An awkward moment typically ensues. “They get a funny look on their face, like, ‘What’s the right answer?’ ’’ Hoffman says. “But I’m trying to gauge how much they know about the industry, and where to pick up the educational process.”
It’s not a bake or break question, in other words.
Getting the job
If you have in-demand skills and want a cannabis job, try the HR department of businesses with solid reputations for growth, and send them a résumé. “Even a cultivator needs an accounting department,” Hoffman says.
To stand out, research the industry and its unique angle.
“Evaluate our website, our menu; make the effort to be knowledgeable about our business in particular and the cannabis industry as a whole, ” Lathrop says. “We are interested in employees who really want to work for Cannabis City. Be dedicated to the interview process and make it impossible for us to not hire you.”
The industry offers a new avenue of employment for older workers, as well. “I’m seeing a lot of folks who are 50 years old, who say, ‘Corporate America doesn’t want me,’” Rheins says. “The industry needs people with experience, who know how to build businesses, who have that serious knowledge from corporate or straight America.
“Those who spent 25 years at PepsiCo — who are now done with their careers — we need those people to help us build,” Rheins says.