March 3, 2015

Guest Post: Work and Well-Being in the Cannabis Industry

By Kevin M. Walters, Colorado State University

Across countries, continents, and cultures, we humans all have certain things in common. Generally speaking, one of those commonalities is work, which we all spend a huge portion of our lives doing. Since we all devote so much time to work, I often ask myself: “how can we make all this time spent working into the best experience it can be?” As such, my research is devoted to understanding and creating positive work environments that foster a sense of well-being, such as this latest project among workers in the cannabis industry of Colorado.

This isn’t always an easy task to accomplish. A quick Google search on “job stress” or “job safety” will instantly provide thousands of pages showing daunting statistics about how stressed out today’s worker is (like this report by NIOSH) or how dangerous some jobs are based on injuries, illnesses, and fatalities (which the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks). The general takeaway from all these numbers is that 1) job stress is very real, and continues to increase in society; and 2) while we are continually developing better ways to make safe and healthy workplaces, there is still much more work to be done.

With these discussions in mind, you might be asking yourself: how does all this relate to workers in the cannabis industry? The short answer is “we don’t know yet”. The longer answer is “we don’t know how this relates to workers in the cannabis industry, because no one has ever asked these workers until now.” And that’s where we (my research team and I) come in, to ask these questions and provide the longest (and most thorough) answer we can.

When I first became involved with the cannabis industry, I was on a team to conduct a general health, safety, and well-being assessment for a dispensary in the Denver area. After speaking with the management and workers there, our team quickly realized that best practices for health, safety, and wellness on the job had not been addressed for this industry on a large scale. While we were able to provide our services and fill this void for that particular dispensary, it was only one piece of the puzzle – we need more pieces in order to really know how we can help this whole industry, which is constantly growing and is economically valuable to Colorado.

Additionally, there is more to satisfaction at work than simply being physically safe and healthy. Emotions, relationships, interpersonal communication, thoughts, and feelings all matter, and all play a role in determining how satisfied and happy we are with the work that we do. With that in mind, my research team and I are here to play our part in ensuring a healthy, safe, and happy future for workers in the cannabis industry.

Our team of researchers comes from Colorado State University and the University of Colorado-Denver. We are experts in a variety of fields and topics, including psychology, stress, occupational health, public health, health promotion, training, vocation, and quality of life. In this project, we are combining our skills to conduct a survey about work-related health, stress, and well-being among workers in the cannabis industry of Colorado. We are trying to understand a number of things, including why people choose to work in the industry, what sorts of jobs these workers perform, and how they feel about their job and work environment. We will then give this information back and provide results and recommendations for the industry, free of charge and with no catch.

SurveyIconWe need help from workers in the cannabis industry of Colorado to complete an anonymous and confidential 30-45 minute online survey about your work environment and experiences. Ideally, entire organizations will participate (including management and workers) because this will allow us to paint a better picture of what is happening across the entire industry. In return, each person who completes the 30-45 minute survey will receive $20 in cash or a gift card as a “thank you” for your help! As mentioned above, we will also provide survey results and recommendations to the industry when the project is completed.

Interested in helping? If so, please complete this very brief survey to answer a few questions. After you complete this brief survey, a member of our research team will contact you to follow up and arrange to take the 30-45 minute survey. We are ready and available to come to your worksite with tablets for you to complete the survey on. If in-person tablet surveys are difficult to schedule, we can also email you a survey link or conduct pen-and-paper surveys the old-fashioned way.

Thank you for playing your role in ensuring a safe and healthy future for this industry! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at the email address below.

NOTE: While we recognize the importance of health, safety, and well-being on a global scale (i.e., among industries and workers in other states and countries), we are focused only on Colorado in this study in order to have confidence in how we interpret the data. If we included other states and industries, there would be too much “noise” in the data to really know what we were seeing, given that this study is the first of its kind. Ideally, we will be able to conduct future projects that can examine and answer these questions in other industries as well.

Kevin M. Walters, graduate student at Colorado State University in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
Kevin M. Walters, graduate student at Colorado State University in Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Kevin M. Walters is a graduate student at Colorado State University in Industrial/Organizational Psychology (the scientific study of the workplace) and a trainee in Occupational Health Psychology (applying psychology to improve the quality of work life, and to protect and promote the safety, health and well-being of workers). He works closely with his advisor, Dr. Gwenith G. Fisher, and his research focuses on positive aspects of the work environment, such as job satisfaction and meaningfulness of work. You can contact him with any questions, comments, or concerns via email at

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