Marijuana Business Magazine April 2020

Marijuana Business Magazine | April 2020 48 F or an idea of how federal prohibition skews a labor market, look no further than the boom- boom hemp industry. The end of prohibition caused seismic shifts to a labor landscape with aftershocks that continue to unsettle the industry more than a year later—and offer new job opportunities for folks who had never considered careers in cannabis. The hemp labor market blew up as soon as the 2018 Farm Bill made the crop legal. Seemingly overnight, conventional farmers and large landowners were scrambling to find employees with expertise in the niche crop. At the same time, longtime marijuana entrepreneurs looked to join the hemp industry and capitalize on legalization’s many benefits, which include lower taxes as well as access to crop insurance and government hiring incentives. “It was immediate, people wanting to find employees in hemp,” said James Yagielo, CEO of HempStaff, a Florida recruiting firm that places talent across the cannabis industry. “We saw a huge increase in just the first quarter of 2019 (with) everyone wanting to take advantage. The first quarter of 2019 matched all the activity we saw in hemp in 2018,” he added. INSTANT SQUEEZE The scramble for hemp expertise had immediate effects on average salaries in the hemp sector. Experienced hemp cultivators started commanding six figures, and hiring picked up in places that previously had few legal cannabis employers, such as North Carolina. Hiring activity grew especially hot for people with experience managing large outdoor growing operations. Outdoor cultivation isn’t unheard of in marijuana, but outdoor MJ grows generally top out at a few dozen acres—not a few thousand. So when hemp entrepreneurs hoped to take immediate advantage of legalization by launching broadacre hemp cultivation in 2019, Yagielo saw an incredibly tight market for farm managers with experience overseeing large outdoor farms of any crop. “You don’t have as many people on the (marijuana) side with experience running a large outdoor farm, so those folks were in extremely high demand,” Yagielo said. His company saw placements of: • $140,000-$160,000 per year for farm directors in Nevada. • $110,000-$130,000 per year for cultivation directors in Florida. • $95,000-$105,000 for field managers in California. Salaries were driven even higher because the overall job market for experienced managers is so tight. “In our area, we’re competing with some big tech companies like Panasonic and Tesla, so it’s really hard to find good people,” said Adrienne Snow, co-founder of Western States Hemp in Reno, Nevada. HEMP QUAKE Legalization of hemp causes hiring surge, making experienced farm operators a hot commodity By Kristen Nichols Brian Furnish of Ananda Hemp is a veteran tobacco farmer who now grows hemp in Kentucky. Photo by Laura Drotleff COMPENSATION CONTEMPLATION