Cannabis MSOs urged to recruit from mainstream business talent pools

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beverage industry

The food and beverage industry has proved to be a popular area for recruiters looking to fill positions at cannabis companies. (Photo by Bill Reitzel)

Vertically integrated multistate operators need dozens of different skill sets on staff, debunking the fantasy of a one-stop shop for job candidates.

That said, there are a few sectors and mainstream companies that marijuana hiring managers like to lean on.

“When we’re building out our manufacturing or CPG (consumer packaged goods) side of the business … we tend to look at the big CPG companies. Procter & Gamble, General Mills (and) large, blue-chip companies that have strong maintenance organizations and strong engineering organizations focused on rigor in their processes,” said Joey Muehlstein, director of talent acquisition at Chicago-based MSO Green Thumb Industries.

Muehlstein said about 75% of the 1,300 employees GTI hired in 2020 were hourly workers—especially those in the company’s retail and production facilities.

“On the shared-services side … we find a lot of really good success out of alcohol (companies): Diageo, Constellation Brands, Molson Coors. We find a lot of good talent out of the pharmaceutical space: Baxter, Abbott,” Muehlstein said. “More generally, we are putting a lot of emphasis on advanced degrees, especially in our leadership positions.”

Jushi Holdings, a Florida-based MSO, also seeks out candidates from highly regulated industries such as food processing, according to Nichole Upshaw, executive vice president of human resources.

“GMP certification is very important,” Upshaw said, referring to job applicants with experience adhering to Good Manufacturing Practice guidelines. “We have HR people in every state making sure we are hiring the best people we can for our dispensaries or our growing and processing facilities.”

Upshaw added that some roles are so specialized they require cannabis experience in addition to mainstream experience. She noted that Jushi had roughly 160 positions that sat open for months last year before the right candidates came along. Nevertheless, the company has gone from about 200 employees at the end of 2019 to 675 today.

The leader of Tilt Holdings, a Phoenix-based MSO that is focused more on wholesale than retail sales but also owns vaporizer maker Jupiter Research, said the company draws from a “pretty diverse” set of industries.

“If I’m looking for a master grower or a lab technician or some R&D for Jupiter, those are going to be more specialized,” Tilt CEO Gary Santo said. “Those are the folks that will come out of those more regulated manufacturing-type industries or agricultural backgrounds.”

Santo said Tilt’s recent opening for a vice president to lead its marketing efforts drew many candidates from the beverage sector.

“They understand how to build brands at the corporate level and then bring it down to the various independent individual components—as opposed to a pure CPG marketer, where I’m just going to build it out by individual product line, like Procter & Gamble,” Santo explained. “We’re seeing more and more food and beverage (candidates) along those lines.

“I think when it comes to our lab folks, you’re probably seeing a little more life-science backgrounds, folks who understand compounding, have a pharmacy background. They understand the processes—and, more importantly, the regulatory environment.”

Bob Fireman, CEO of Massachusetts-based MSO MariMed, has found success hiring for the company’s infused product lines by tapping employees from the CPG and beverage sectors. He’s also hired workers from Waters, a Massachusetts company that makes scientific equipment and products.

“Not their expensive guys,” he clarified, “but the guys that understood that the cannabis industry was going to be an opportunity.”

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