RENO, Nev. — While sales of recreational marijuana in Nevada are going strong, one significant area that remains a work in progress is finding the right employees.
Mikel Alvarez, director of retail operations for Terra Tech — a California-based marijuana cultivator and operator of dispensaries including Blüm in Reno — said one of the main challenges is understanding all the nuances and regulations of the Silver State’s still-young legal cannabis industry.
State law requires workers in marijuana establishments must be at least 21 years of age, cannot be convicted of a felony offense, and must earn a registered agent card. However, Nevada does not require workers to be medically trained to work at a dispensary.
Alvarez said the most important thing he looks for in employees is passion and a willingness to learn the industry.
“Yes, knowledge is appreciated and is a plus; however, if someone comes to us and are ready to learn at a fast pace, we might give them a shot,” Alvarez said. “It has happened once or five times before.
“I can teach someone about cannabis or how to sell a product.”
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Ideally, dispensaries would like to find candidates with experience in the industry, Alvarez said, particularly those with the knowledge of the variety of cannabis products and ways to ingest them.
Extensive knowledge is rare
That’s not always easy. Fernando Leal, CEO of Sierra Well, a cannabis dispensary with locations in Reno and Carson City, said finding experienced employees is difficult.
Often, the best candidates, he said, are individuals who are familiar with someone, such as a family member or friend, who has been impacted by the use of medical or recreational marijuana.
“Finding candidates with extensive knowledge in this market is rare,” Leal said in an email to the NNBW. “That said, we are seeing more transplants coming from states that preceded Nevada in adopting some form of cannabis use.”
Similar to hiring practices at Blüm, Leal said he looks for candidates with enthusiasm who want to build a career in the industry.
“These candidates tend to have a real desire to build a career in the industry versus those that just want to be part of the ‘next big thing,'” Leal said.
For employees who want to work for Blüm, an internal human resources department goes through a vetting process, after which, qualified candidates go through interviews with assistant managers.
If they pass the initial interview the company’s dispensary manager will interview them.
Even in the hiring process, job candidates at Blüm are checked in as a visitor. The administration holds a candidate’s form of ID and presents him or her with a visitor badge. From there, candidates are escorted personally to a patient consultation room for interviews.
Fostering a professional workplace
Once candidates are hired at dispensaries, they often go through an extensive training. At Sierra Well, new employees are introduced to a thorough onboarding process and must continuously meet certification requirements and training.
“We are incredibly fortunate at Sierra Well to have a team that consists of many individuals with extensive experience, and/or college and post graduate degrees,” Leal said.
Blüm issues an employee handbook, and employees — including management — are expected to be professional, respectful and courteous at all times.
“We want to work with employees and not just terminate; however, we do have zero tolerance on several items,” Alvarez said.
Although there are a few cannabis-specific job sites — such as 420careers.com, hempstaff.com and marijuanajobscannabiscareers.com — regional dispensaries are just starting to use them, if at all.
Aside from security considerations, dispensaries have a few things to consider once positions are filled.
An underlying theme is many patrons are visiting a recreational cannabis dispensary for the first time, officials said, and may feel intimidated or be affected by a perceived stigma of going into an establishment.
Leal explained it is important that his employees display compassion to visitors who may be intimidated with the setting and may be novices to marijuana products.
“I view our team as purveyors of information that, although at this time may be anecdotal, can still be valuable to people interested in exploring non-pharmaceutical alternatives,” Leal said.
Nevada pot sales still ahead of projections
Recreational marijuana sales hit $32.8 million in Nevada in January, outpacing the state’s projections, but falling short of the $35.8 million sold in December, according to a March 26 report from the Associated Press.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports the state published the most recent statistics last week, and sales numbers have fluctuated each month since it opened in July, going from up one month to down another month.
Democratic State Sen. Tick Segerblom, who pushed for pot legalization, says the market isn’t growing the way he thought it would.
But while sales have been up and down, each month has been well over the state’s projections.