Ohio’s budding medical-marijuana industry has more open jobs than candidates
Monday, March 4, 2019
Posted by: Lexi Dills
GIBSONBURG, Ohio - Erik Vaughan was one of four employees at northwest Ohio’s Standard Wellness Co. just six months ago. Now with 45 employees, the company is moving forward with plans to cultivate, process and sell medical marijuana.
Standard Wellness is one example of many rapidly growing companies in the industry that need to fill job openings in Ohio.
“We had to go out of state to find specialists and managers for our cultivation business. With our state-of-the art facility here in Gibsonburg (near Sandusky), it was an easy sell to get people to move from Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Mexico,” Vaughan said. “We have a large-scale commercial business, and we needed to hire them so that they could pass on knowledge to other employees. It’s an exciting time.”
But Standard Wellness, which plans to double its number of employees in the next 12 to 18 months, isn’t the only one facing the hiring need. Industry insiders say there just aren’t enough people with marijuana experience, so they are recruiting from other fields and training them.
Nationwide, marijuana-related job openings rose 76 percent from December 2017 to December 2018, with 1,512 open roles posted in that final month of 2018 alone, according to Glassdoor. Back in 2017, that number was only 858. Jobs in cultivation, extraction, retail and ancillary businesses have salaries that range from $22,000 to $300,000.
While no specific numbers for Ohio’s fledgling medical-marijuana-jobs market are available yet, industry experts say Ohio is part of that national job-growth trend. Yet, while there is growth, the new industry can have some downside for employees too.
“The biggest surprise has been the level of interest from the community for all of our job openings,” Vaughan said. “For the six dispensary spots we recently opened, we had 190 applicants. In general, we’ve been getting about 20 to 30 applicants for every job opening we post.”
Marijuana-related companies are hiring in fields from plant-tending to administration. Most Ohio jobs, right now, are in dispensaries and in cultivation. But that’s going to change.
Robin Ann Morris, CEO of MaryJane Agency in Sandusky, says her company has collected more than 500 resumes and video interviews throughout the state in the past year.
“My advice is to take what you love and apply that skill to the cannabis industry,” said Morris. “We‘re just waiting for more ancillary businesses to be formed so we can hire people in areas ranging from management, marketing, accounting and sales to chefs and security. It’s a parallel industry to corporate America. We’re going to need investors, educators, consultants, sales and marketing.”
Brandon Lynaugh, a spokesman for Standard Wellness, said his company seeks the best job candidates like any other industry.
“We're similar to any other industry with the due diligence we do with potential new hires, but we DO NOT discriminate against cannabis users,” Lynaugh said.
Ohio Marijuana Card, a company that connects patients with state-certified doctors who help patients get approved for medical marijuana use, is also growing. So far, the company has seven locations with three more expected to open in the next six weeks in Athens, Youngstown and Woodmere.
“We‘ve hired 15 people in the last month and we are at over 75 for the entire organization,” said Connor Shore, president. “Most are clinic staff and patient support staff, people who work in the clinics and at call centers. We’re interviewing for HR and finance positions right now.
“Like myself, I’m sure that other companies hire people who have a passion for cannabis or a connection, such as a family member who benefitted and it helped their quality of life,” Shore said. “It helps to create a more engaged work environment when everyone has shared values, working toward a common goal.”
Job growth flourishing
Last year at this time, James Yagielo, a North Ridgeville native and CEO of Hempstaff, was hosting classes in Cleveland for people eager to get into the industry. Since that time, the South Florida-based national company has held classes in Cincinnati and Columbus, as well. About 90 people showed up for the most recent half-day seminar in Cleveland on Feb. 23.
Class participants in 20 states range from medical professionals to career-changers. They learn that entry level jobs including watering plants, taking soil samples, and working at dispensaries generally pay about $15 an hour, while a master grower in Ohio can expect to earn between $100,000 to $120,000 a year.
The industry has four main career areas, according to a story in U.S. News and World Report:
· Cultivation -- people with botany expertise grow marijuana plants.
· Extraction -- chemists and laboratory technicians process flowers and leaves to draw out oils used to create pills, ointments and edibles.
· Retail -- dispensary workers sell products to customers.
· Ancillary commerce -- web developers, recruiters and marketers help the other sectors
The skills needed to land these jobs vary. Some employees are marijuana experts; others simply have previous career experience, such as accounting or office management.
“This year, 2019 is going to be a big year in Ohio,” Yagielo said. “That’s when hundreds if not thousands of people will be getting jobs. That first year of operations is when 90 percent of job openings are filled in a new state’s marijuana industry.”
Get connected, learn
Growth in the marijuana industry is the reason that Valley View-based GIE Media recently launched a national job board.
The company has run various business-to-business trade publications for 38 years, focusing on 17 industries as diverse as pest control to horticulture and golf course superintendents. But none of those markets has grown as fast as their two newest publications aimed at the cannabis industry: Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary.
GIE launched its first Cannabis Conference in 2017, and the next conference aimed at cultivators and dispensary owners kicks off April 1 in Las Vegas.
“We wanted to position ourselves as a recruitment tool for our audience,” said Eric Sandy, digital editor at Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary, referring to the job board. “Prospective employees can use it too. But it’s meant for our businesses to share job listings.”
Abbey Bemis, executive director at the Erie County Economic Development Corp., said she’s excited about the new industry’s prospects.
“I think people underestimate the breadth of positions and skillsets that these operations will need. All of them are highly paid and attractive positions in an exciting emerging industry,” Bemis said. “I know that Ohio Patients Choice in Huron receives hundreds of applicants when they post available positions.”
The Cleveland School of Cannabis is filling the crunch too. It says they don’t have enough students to meet the job opening demand in some areas. The Independence-based school is now offering online classes and opening a second location in Columbus in hopes of attracting more students.
As the cannabis industry grows, the types of talent will continue to expand, but thinking everything is rosy is a mistake.
Even though the number of states regulating marijuana is growing, the federal government still strictly prohibits it. Many state-legal marijuana businesses, for instance, have to function as cash-only enterprises, since many banks are nervous about dealing with businesses that are essentially breaking federal law. And many companies, including the Cleveland Clinic, firmly stand by their stance of not recommending marijuana to their patients.
“One thing we tell people in our training classes is that job security could be an issue because at any given time the federal government could decide to enforce the federal law and shut down cannabis businesses,” said Yagielo of Hempstaff. “They have the right to do that. Now will they? Who knows. Probably not in my opinion, but there’s always a threat out there because it could be done.”
In addition to possible job loss, another concern plaguing potential employees in the industry is lack of benefits.
Yagielo said that about 50 percent of his medical marijuana business clients offer healthcare insurance to employees, while only about 10 to 20 percent offer other benefits such as 401(k), dental and vision plans.
Covering NorthEast Ohio, online. March 4th, 2019.