James Crotz, Dispensary Manager at Deep Roots Harvest in Damonte Ranch, completes a transaction with a customer.
In 2020, many industries downsized and scaled back to absorb the shocks of shutdowns and social distancing mandates caused by the pandemic.
Now, as the economy begins to recover, many sectors are struggling to ramp up and bring revenues back to pre-COVID levels due to staffing shortages.
That’s not the case for one of the fastest-growing industries in the country: cannabis. In Nevada, some marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities have had little problem attracting workers as people in hard-hit sectors like retail and restaurants who were furloughed or laid off have moved into cannabis.
Take Deep Roots Harvest. Over the past 18 months, the company has opened two dispensaries in the Silver State, one in Damonte Ranch and the other in North Las Vegas. Three more Deep Roots retail stores are under construction in Clark County.
The company’s new dispensaries in Vegas and Reno quickly became fully staffed, creating roughly 60 jobs, said Marshall, noting the company added another 20 jobs on the cultivation and production side.
“It seems like we’re attracting entrants coming from every industry,” Jon Marshall, COO of Deep Roots Harvest, told the NNBW. “We’ve definitely seen people from all sorts of service industry jobs come into cannabis because it’s a great cultural fit, it’s a pretty relaxed atmosphere, you get product samples, and we do tip our budtenders out.
“I think as people become more and more comfortable with cannabis, you’re seeing people come out of the woodwork.”
The marijuana industry added 80,0000 jobs in 2020, more than double what it did a year prior, according to data from the Leafly Jobs Report.
All told, an estimated 321,000 Americans now work in the industry, a 32% increase from last year, the report found, making legal marijuana one of the fastest-growing sectors.
For perspective: The U.S. now has more legal cannabis workers than EMTs and paramedics, electrical engineers and dentists.
It’s no secret many Americans reassessed jobs and career paths as the pandemic reshaped their social and working lives. Whether they are looking for a stable schedule, better benefits or more opportunities to advance, people are finding the grass is greener within the marijuana industry.
“Some of our top leadership started as budtenders and trimmers,” Marshall said. “They were entry-level labor four or five years ago with us, and now they’re managing or supervising pretty big departments. Three of my directors currently all started in cannabis at entry-level positions and now they’re running departments with 50-plus people.”
Deep Roots Harvest pay ranges from $12.50 an hour for an entry-level position to “six figures” for management and executive roles, Marshall said. With cannabis still a relatively nascent industry, entry-level workers can move up to specialized roles quicker than most business sectors, he noted.
“The overall gross revenue for the industry is growing so fast that there’s just a lot of opportunity in our industry compared to ones that have already matured,” he said. “People that are motivated and dedicated — and cultivate their own knowledge on the side to understand the accounting, the P&L (profit-and-loss) and compliances — those people are invaluable right now as we grow.”
Conversely, some new cannabis workers who struggle to adapt to the industry might make mistakes that are incredibly costly, said Ray Schiavone, co-owner and CEO of Tahoe Hydro, a cannabis company with cultivation facilities in Carson City and Sparks.
“There are little mistakes that people make, like leaving a light switch on if they’re doing something in a flower room, that cost us a lot of money,” he said. “So, you want to get the right people and the best people that you can.”
Tahoe Hydro has seen demand for its products grow so rapidly that getting enough people — let alone the best people — has been a challenge. The company, Schiavone said, is selling its flower at roughly $3,500 per pound — a 59% increase compared to their pre-pandemic price per pound of $2,200.
“Revenues are the highest they’ve ever been,” he said. “We cannot package product fast enough, so we just can’t get enough people as fast as we need to. It’s getting to the point where even if someone isn’t doing a good job, you can’t really fire them because you need the help so bad. You don’t want to lose anybody right now.”
In Northern Nevada, Schiavone said the company is competing with large manufacturers and warehouses that are constantly hiring and increasing their entry-level wages. What’s more, companies like Tahoe Hydro are trying to attract unemployed Northern Nevadans back into the workforce.
“We’re seeing fewer people than we would normally see to fill the positions that we have,” Schiavone said. “And I think there’s just a shortage of people right now, in general.”