Smoking Pot Can Disqualify You From Cannabis Jobs

By Kelly Burch 08/28/18

“Sometimes you can get by with a low-level, misdemeanor possession charge, but not always,” said one medical marijuana job recruiter.

Medical marijuana buds in large prescription bottle with branded cap on black background

Medical marijuana is creating about 25,000 new jobs in Florida, but smoking cannabis disqualifies many people from working in the industry, according to a report by The Orlando Sentinel

“We get hundreds of applications for every job opening we have, and maybe only 10% of those are qualified and meet the legal requirements,” said Michelle Terrell, spokesman for Curaleaf, a Massachusetts-based company that opened a dispensary in south Orlando in August. 

In Florida, state law requires that marijuana workers have a clean criminal background check with no felonies. Drug-related offenses, including smoking marijuana, can derail applicants, said James Yagielo, founder of HempStaff, a Miami-based medical marijuana recruiting firm.

“Sometimes you can get by with a low-level, misdemeanor possession charge, but not always,” Yagielo said.

Because of this, he advises people not to mention their illicit drug use in an interview, even if they feel that their experience with marijuana helps explain their qualifications. 

“For a lot of people at the entry level, they say they want to get into this industry because of a passion for cannabis,” he said. “We usually tell them they should avoid bringing up any illegal activity regarding cannabis in an interview.”

Because of the more intense screening process, the marijuana industry pays slightly more than other service industry jobs in Florida, with entry-level wages between $11 and $15 an hour. This makes the industry appealing to many people who aren’t intimidated by the requirements. The industry already created nearly 3,000 jobs during 2017 and is expected to grow to 25,000 jobs by 2022.

“We need customer-experience specialists, we need drivers and we’ll be expanding our phone operations,” said Scott Klenet, a spokesperson for Knox Medical, a cannabis dispensary that is “aggressively hiring.” 

“And what we find is that people come from all walks of life,” Klenet added. 

Catie Callahan, 34, gave up a management job at a national grocery chain to open the new Orlando Curaleaf dispensary. She said that she sees cannabis as a business opportunity that she did not want to pass up.

“I took a class on medical marijuana regulations last year, and I’ve been keeping my eyes open for an opportunity,” she said. 

She considered the way that working in medical marijuana would impact her career and ultimately decided that the benefits outweighed the risks. 

“There is a stigma, but I’m not worried about leaving this business and not being able to get a job because I worked in medical marijuana.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.