Backlog in CO Cannabis Employee Licensing

Complications with Colorado’s recreational marijuana program continue. Only this time, would-be employees of retail cannabis shops are running into issues – and that could cause problems for marijuana businesses.

Recreational marijuana stores must ensure all of their employees are licensed with the state before opening when adult-use sales begin next month. So dozens and sometimes hundreds of budtenders, trimmers and other marijuana employees have been showing up at the Marijuana Enforcement Division’s offices each morning, yet the agency can’t handle the crowds.

Employees hoping to obtain licenses face long lines, a bizarre lottery process involving poker chips in a coffee can, and the prospect of being turned away.

The delays in employee licensing put serious pressure on recreational shops that are hoping to open in January. Many in the industry are predicting a surge in business during the first months of recreational marijuana sales. The increase in business will put pressure on every step of the marijuana chain, from growing and processing to sales and marketing. So shops that are hoping to thrive need to have a full staff.

In order to work in the industry, each worker must be fingerprinted, clear criminal and financial background checks, and be certified as a state resident. The MED has just six employees doing the occupational licensing and eight employees doing background checks, which sometimes take days or weeks to accomplish.

The MED said it has been licensing between 100 and 120 employees a week. According to The Denver Post, on a recent morning 245 employees were turned away because of long lines.

It’s the latest hiccup for Colorado’s recreational marijuana program, coming on the heels of complaints by cannabis business owners about the state’s new inventory tracking system and general delays in licensing. These setbacks are forcing many owners to push back the date they can open their retail cannabis stores, meaning just a handful will actually be up and running when recreational sales begin on Jan. 1.