Committee Blog: Searching Through the Weeds – Identify, Attract, and Retain the Top Employment Prospects

Committee Blog: Searching Through the Weeds – Identify, Attract, and Retain the Top Employment Prospects

By: Richard Fleming, Founder & CEO, Altered State Cannabis Company
Contributing Author: Tony Trinh, Royalty Grown Consulting
Produced by: NCIA’s Retail Committee 

Cannabis is one of the most heavily regulated industries, which brings a few more challenges that increase the difficulty locating prospects. This can make finding people who have the right skills and experiences a tricky endeavor, often fraught with risks. Small startup endeavors, vertically integrated companies and even MSO’s can run the gamut in terms of who is doing what day to day. Since we do not yet have the type of standardization that exists in more mature industries, it can be challenging to figure out who to hire, and with what titles.

Here are some tips, tricks, and best practices to attract the best prospects and hire suitable candidates that will bring value, commitment, and success to your business.

Try Not to Rush

Whether creating a new position, replacing an employee, or even expanding operations, the tendency is to want to fill a job with someone competent and available as soon as possible. But in order to find the best person, to not only perform the duties of the job but also enhance your workplace culture, grow, and evolve with your business, it takes time.

Clearly Define the Position

When posting a job listing, include more than a simple description of the duties to be performed. Instead, clearly define what the job entails, include what qualities a viable candidate should possess, and outline the culture and values of your business that you believe a potential hire should share. This structure will allow candidates to grasp a complete understanding of the job and match their strengths and interests to the description of the ideal candidate. Producing a clear understanding for both employer and employee about what is expected and how to excel.

Recruit Through Multiple Channels

Since so many qualified candidates could come from a wide range of other industries, it is vital to cast a wide net when searching for potential applicants. There are job boards that specialize in the cannabis industry, such as Viridian Staffing. Others like Indeed are effective places to get a lot of traffic on your job listings. Using social media like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn can raise your visibility and reach those already in the job market. You could also connect with those that may be open to changing their career path but are not aware of the many opportunities available in the cannabis industry. Also, networking through cannabis-related events and membership associations such as the NCIA can also yield knowledgeable and ambitious candidates.

Looking at Comparable Industries and Transferable Skills

Business owners and recruiters can benefit from looking within a highly regulated sector to find talented employees with a solid knowledge base. The banking, pharmaceutical, alcohol, tobacco, and gaming industries have been around much longer than regulated cannabis. Recruiting talent from these comparable industry models can provide your business with relatable business perspectives and best practices that can benefit your workplace and complement your staff.

Much like the consumer-packaged goods industry, the cannabis industry sells products to the public and needs to hire talent in areas including sales, marketing, retail/distribution, HR, finance/accounting and legal/compliance. Some cannabis companies have often recruited and hired professionals who developed their skill sets in other industries.

Perform Pre-employment Screenings

In any industry as highly regulated the way cannabis is, having stringent pre-employment screenings and background checks is essential to ensuring your business remains compliant with all state laws and restrictions. Hiring unqualified employees can result in fines, penalties, and closures, so it is paramount that your business put procedures in place to screen any potential candidate. Pre-employment screenings should include:

  • A criminal and civil records search.
  • Restricted party search.
  • Professional license investigation.
  • A National Sex Offender Registry search.
  • A National Record Locator search.
  • A review of any previous compliance issues at past cannabis-related businesses.

Human Resources

During the recruiting process, identify candidates who have an established personal brand and who differentiate themselves. Employees will need to have a robust work ethic, attention to detail, able to work effectively in a team environment and possess the ability to merge their ambitions with the goals of the team and the company. Identifying and targeting candidates with and without cannabis industry experience can lead to recruiting success. This approach can broaden your recruiting net, differentiate your cannabis company, and provide the ‘edge’ you need to stand out from other potential employers.

Wages, Benefits, and Culture

One of the most essential steps is to ensure that your base salary, bonus structures and benefits packages are current and comprehensive is critical to attracting talented professionals that can take your business to the next level. Cannabis companies should look for candidates who understand the importance of your company’s specific goals and demands.

Training and Engaging

Your core employee onboarding compliance training package and continuing education plan offers a foundation to build upon. Significant areas of the industry are grappling with high turnover rates, particularly among those who do not succeed in the first few months of employment. Employee training and onboarding will help stem those departures.

A safe environment is created by assessing risk and using proper equipment, policies, and procedures to reduce or stop events or situations that could happen. As a security professional in the cannabis market, you will need a solid knowledge of security systems. Understanding the cannabis marketplace and the required security is essential to running a problem-free operation.


Remember that most people who are being hired don’t have any cannabis experience, or have very limited cannabis experience, or have legacy market cannabis experience. These individuals don’t yet understand all the compliance nuances and requirements that are needed to operate in a licensed business. Sometimes it’s the soft skills, personal qualities, and cultural fit that may make a candidate a better fit for a role than someone with more regulated cannabis-specific experience. A unique approach, clearly defined roles, a wide recruiting strategy, and transferable skills are the name of the game.

Author & Company Information

Richard Fleming

Richard Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Altered State Cannabis Company as well as a leading member of The Detroit Cannabis Project. He is an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry, and has also held executive positions with other startup companies. Richard has thirteen years of cannabis cultivation experience and over two decades of legacy/caregiver market retail and distribution.

Member Blog: What Is New Hire Reporting and Why Is It Critical for Cannabis Companies

Related Posts

Join the movement

NCIA is leading the cannabis industry's unified and coordinated campaign to ensure our business sector is treated fairly and has the opportunity to reach its full potential. Now - more than ever - is the time to invest in your business and the future of the industry by becoming a member.

This site uses cookies. By using this site or closing this notice, you agree to the use of cookies and our privacy policy.