Published on February 24, 2019 by David Wylie

High job standards

Want to work in a cannabis store? You need to start training now

Once cannabis retailers make it successfully through the stressful process of getting licensed, there’s another challenge looming: Hiring.

Sarah Ballantyne and her husband Carson are the Spiritleaf franchisees in Vernon. Sarah’s experience in human resources with the Alberta government has her working through the logistics of recruiting staff and management.

“One of my fears is not being able to retain employees because of the long process of becoming a qualified worker,” she told the oz. “I’d really like to focus on hiring and retaining employees.”

While she is still going through the licensing process with the City of Vernon and then the province, hiring is already on Sarah’s mind.

The couple will be owner/operators and they’ve taken as much training as they can, including training from the Spiritleaf franchise. Sarah said it took more than four weeks to become qualified to work in a cannabis store.

The industry is still waiting on a program from the province as part of the Serving It Right program for liquor.

To receive verification as a qualified worker, prospective employees need a criminal record check that can take between four and six weeks.

“If they want to work this summer, they need to get on it now,” she said.

Tourism companies planning on offering cannabis may require similar training, she advised.

Great responsibility

Those in charge of a cannabis store take on greater responsibility than other types of retail managers.

For example, shipping and receiving requires accurate logs on every gram of cannabis in the store. Contractors need to be verified and logged in. There’s a comprehensive handbook to follow.

“The responsibility is at a higher level than managing a different type of retail store,” she said. “I do think with the increased responsibility of having to maintain a store like that should be higher,” she said.

The franchise has provided the freedom to give bonuses, which is how Sarah said she anticipates drawing and retaining qualified employees.

“Vernon had 14 stores operating before Oct. 17, so there’s over a hundred experienced staff that have been laid off. Previous workers just need to come in line with the new security requirements and training,” she said, adding retailers will pay higher wages for more experienced workers.

Attracting employees to the cannabis industry has further complications. Advertising for job openings, for example, is uncharted waters. Cannabis-related social media accounts are barred or punished when attempting to advertise, and rules are hazy and strict on marketing.

To get around those challenges, Ballantyne is considering a job fair.

“I can meet (perspective employees) face-to-face and then there’s no online advertising and no newspaper advertising, it will just be through my network and word of mouth.”

Spiritleaf is establishing a chain of recreational cannabis dispensaries with the vision of becoming the leading recreational cannabis retail chain in Canada.

Its parent company is Inner Spirit (CSE:ISH).

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