Marijuana Business Magazine October 2019

Marijuana Business Magazine | October 2019 90 just how much to offer can be tricky for cannabis industry employers. For some jobs, employers could look to free, public data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to get an idea of what to offer. But the information is often broad—such as sales or marketing manager— and not specific to the cannabis industry. Data from sources that aggregate pay information, including Glassdoor or LinkedIn, might offer more detailed information, but it often comes with a fee. Recruiting firms such as HempStaff, Vangst and Viridian might also share how much they’re seeing companies offer as part of what they charge for their services. “Since we work nationwide, we can generally tell companies what the salary range for a position is going to be. A lot of our numbers come from our previous placements in different parts of the country,” said James Yagielo, CEO of HempStaff, a hemp and cannabis recruitment and training business in the Miami area. Because the cannabis industry is relatively new—especially in states that recently set up medical and recreational programs—the pool of candidates with direct experience working with marijuana is limited. Companies often must offer above-average pay to attract those with experience running a dispensary or with technical knowledge with cannabidiol processing. “That’s how you get those experienced people to move from a recreational state like Colorado or California. You have to entice them with salary, with benefits, with profit-sharing or with all three,” Yagielo said. WOOING NON-CANNABIS CANDIDATES Attracting mainstream talent from related fields might also be costly for employers, because the perk package offered must offset some of the uncertainty tied to joining the emerging legal cannabis industry. “Right now, for very high-level processing lead extractor chemist people, we’re looking at the $160,000 to $180,000 salary range,” Yagielo said. “They’re finding people to come over from companies like Procter & Gamble at those salaries. But that’s what you have to pay if you want a chemist that has an established job at an established company to take a risk and join a cannabis company.” Cannabis companies often look to the wine and spirits and tobacco industries for candidates. Accur Recruiting Services, a recruitment and executive search firm with offices in Miami and New York, works with the alcohol and tobacco industries in addition to cannabis. James Yagielo Courtesy Photo When to Lawyer Up Cannabis companies without a strategic approach to hiring risk running afoul of the myriad state and federal labor laws and regulations. Recruiting experts recommend businesses ask for legal input when setting up their hiring and pay practices. Companies should get lawyers involved when they start drafting job applications, said James Yagielo, CEO of HempStaff. “We always recommend trying to find a lawyer that’s helped with applications before. You don’t want to be the guinea pig for the first one,” Yagielo advised. Legal pitfalls abound. For example, employees in cultivation facilities, manufacturing labs or dispensaries might need to lift heavy items occasionally or be on their feet for several hours of their job. But asking candidates about their health could open up companies to violations of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act or Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. Companies that don’t create pay standards could end up with one group of people, such as women or minorities, being paid less than their counterparts. That type of disparity could be a violation of the federal Equal Pay Act. “Compensation should be equal work for equal pay regardless of someone’s age, sex, religion or race,” said Kara Bradford, CEO of Viridian Staffing. “Once you get a final compensation model together, you should definitely have that run by employment lawyers.” Legal staff or firms with knowledge about employment law can help businesses adhere to the various federal rules around hiring and avoid potential fines and lawsuits. They can also help companies understand the state or local hiring regulations. The Oregon Equal Pay Act, for example, has specific rules to ensure workers doing the same job earn the same amount unless limited “bona fide factors” are considered, such as a candidate’s education, geographic location or time with the company. This could mean that if one budtender gets a $3 raise after two years with a dispensary, all other budtenders would have to receive that raise when they’re employed for that long. States might also have different rules about who at the company can receive a financial stake in the business or how much equity an employee can receive before being considered an officer or requiring disclosure to state regulators about who is receiving the equity. “In general, we’ll say at this level we’re seeing this percentage of equity or points or options being offered with this type of vesting schedule, but we always recommend they get an attorney to write their stock-options agreements to make sure they’re all buttoned up,” said Christine Hodgdon, chief operating officer at Vangst. – Adrian D. Garcia Perfecting Your Pay Plan