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December 5, 2022

Cannabis companies ramp up recruitment efforts as recreational industry prepares launch

PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED Staff at Fine Fettle’s recently opened Stamford medical marijuana dispensary serve a customer. The facility has been granted state approval to also serve recreational customers when the market opens early next year.

Connecticut’s cannabis industry could account for more than 10,000 jobs just a few years after the recreational market launches, according to a recent study, and companies are already ramping up hiring efforts ahead of the first adult-use sales in the state.

Cannabis employment recruitment firm CannabizTeam recently released its 2022 Tri-State Cannabis Salary Guide, outlining what new adult-use markets in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey could expect in regards to employment potential. The company said it expects 10,500 cannabis jobs in Connecticut by 2025, according to an algorithm factoring in existing jobs, population and estimated retail licenses and sales.

According to cannabis information site Leafly’s 2022 jobs report, the United States as a whole has about 428,059 marijuana-related jobs, a 33% increase from the beginning of 2021. There were 149,300 cannabis jobs in the country in 2018.

Connecticut Cannabis Chamber of Commerce President Adam Wood said the recent employment projections mirror the results of a University of Connecticut study, and he expects a hiring boom as companies continue to outfit facilities in preparation for adult-use sales, which are expected to commence within the next few months.

Adam Wood

“It’s clear that the industry is already contributing a lot to Connecticut’s economy through engineers, attorneys and architects, and now these businesses are beginning to ramp up and hire for themselves,” Wood said. “It’s an exciting time for the industry.”

‘Palpable excitement’

Verano Holdings Corp., which purchased Rocky Hill medical cannabis cultivator CTPharma late last year, hosted a jobs fair in June to begin the process of filling out its workforce.

CTPharma employees work with cut cannabis flower. Growers like CTPharma are adding jobs to prepare for higher production to serve the recreational market.

According to Verano’s Vice President of Talent Acquisition Michael Evans, the company hired at least 28 people from that event, bringing its total number of Connecticut employees to 125. He said the event was high energy and a good example of the current “palpable excitement” surrounding the cannabis industry that isn’t usually seen in entry-level jobs.

“When you look at the type of talent we attract and bring in, you would have seen a very motley crew of people from all walks of life,” Evans said. “There are people who are very experienced and just looking to make a complete change, and people who have really been on the fringes of the workforce and haven’t been able to find that ‘it’ kind of job they’re passionate about.”

Most of the company’s employees are in cultivation, production and growth operations, he said, which is where much of Verano’s local efforts have been focused so far.

The company’s Rocky Hill grow facility was recently approved to serve the recreational market, which means production will increase.

“Our production needs will go up, so I definitely see the need to add more people,” Evans said. “We have good space, good parking and the capacity to expand in Rocky Hill.”

While the Rocky Hill cultivation facility makes up about three-quarters of the company’s employees currently, more retail-related hires can be expected.

Verano Holdings Corp. also operates Willow Brook Wellness medical dispensary in Meriden, which was just approved for a hybrid license. That means it can sell to both medical and recreational marijuana users.

Verano is hoping for a similar hybrid license for its Waterbury medical dispensary, Caring Nature. Earlier this year, Verano applied for a special permit to open a hybrid adult-use cannabis dispensary in Newington at 2903 Berlin Turnpike, in the vacant former home of Bonefish Grill restaurant.

Verano officials said retail employees begin at $15 per hour and cultivation and processing workers make between $15 and $17 per hour in addition to benefits. Evans said the company doesn’t require resumes when interviewing candidates because it’s focused on learning more about a candidate’s life experiences that some places undervalue.

Verano Holdings Director of Communications Steve Mazeika said the company is also exploring equity joint venture opportunities that could add more retail locations down the line.

1,000 applications

Ben Zachs, chief operations officer for Connecticut-based cannabis dispensary Fine Fettle, said his company has also been posting job openings.

Ben Zachs

Fine Fettle currently operates three medical dispensaries that were recently approved to serve the adult-use market. It also has plans for six equity joint venture adult-use dispensaries and a partnership with Hartford resident Kennard Ray to open a social equity cultivator business.

As a result, Zachs said he expects Fine Fettle will need to hire at least up to 200 employees in the near future in positions along the supply chain, from sales to management. Between part- and full-time jobs, Fine Fettle employees can make anywhere from $18 per hour to $90,000 salaries, he said, plus benefits.

Zachs said Fine Fettle has received more than 1,000 applications since it began posting jobs this fall.

“Our strategy has been to post the jobs and interview people to get a list of folks we want to make offers to,” Zachs said. “It puts us in a position so that when the state says ‘ok, go,’ we can have our employees hired and trained. … We want to be ready.”

‘Industry-specific knowledge’

The CT Cannabis Chamber of Commerce formed in February to help provide a hub for cannabis-related business activity in the state. Wood said companies like CTPharma and Fine Fettle have an edge over their newer competitors in the state since they already have established and known businesses.

Even still, hiring the right candidate for the right job will be competitive.

“There is some really industry-specific knowledge related to cultivation and best practices. It’s cultivation, but it’s also lighting and technology and all those other parts,” Wood said. “Those folks are in high demand.”

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