19 April 2022 |

Does We Have a Hiring Problem in Cannabis?

By Kaitlin Domangue

The cannabis industry has a hiring problem.

More specifically, we have an employee retention problem.

What Does The Data Say?

There’s not a lack of interest in people wanting to work in cannabis.

There is, however, a clear lack of employees willing to stay in their current roles for a meaningful period of time.

To make it clearer: 58% of budtenders who quit their position left after 2 months.

This is according to Headset’s analytics from participating Washington State and Colorado cannabis retailers. 40% didn’t even last 1 month. Just 14% of all employees who quit had been in their position for longer than 3 months. 

This is jarring, to put it plainly. Though budtenders might have the worst turnover rate in cannabis, all verticals experience it. 

Vangst’s 2021 Salary Guide found 40.7% of its respondents had been in their current position for less than one year. The data was collected from over 1,000 surveys across all verticals, large and small companies included.

This includes cultivators, manufacturers, retailers, and ancillary companies alike. 

Do Employees Leave Employers?

Continuing to look at the Vangst report, though, we’ll see it doesn’t seem to be the cannabis industry itself, but companies who are causing the high turnover rate. 

40.7 of respondents were in their current position for less than a year at the time of this report. Just 16.5% held their current position for more than five years.

That said, 30.6% of respondents reported being in the cannabis industry itself for more than 5 years, which indicates many of these people remain in cannabis.

Why Cannabis Professionals Are Leaving

1) Compensation

Budtenders are paid the lowest, on average, out of any position in cannabis. This absolutely contributes to the high turnover rate in cannabis retail. 

Vangst’s Salary Guide said budtenders make an average of $14-25/hour. The pay is too low for many people to stick around for long, especially if employers are slow to promote and give raises. 

As you climb the corporate cannabis ladder, salaries begin to increase, however, they 

Vangst’s guide says the Vice President of Retail Operations in cannabis, for example, makes an average of $120,000 to $200,000 annually.

The average salary for this position is about $195,000 in the United States’ traditional retail industry, but it can easily top $200,000 depending on experience, the company, and geographical location. 

2) Unrealistic Expectations

In the minds of some people, cannabis = an easy ticket out of work.

Anyone who has ever worked in the cannabis industry will tell you it’s not easy work.

Whether you work in marketing, cultivation, retail, tech, or policy: there’s not a spot where laziness is feasible.

Cannabis is fast-moving, fast-paced, and constantly happening.

Dispensaries are open 7 days a week, cultivators care for the plants 7 days a week & there’s also support for those teams who have to be available, 7 days a week.

Preventing turnover starts with creating realistic expectations.

Losing Talent

Most of the people in this industry who have been here for over 5 years are here because their passion for this plant fuels them.

They love this plant and are willing to ride the industry’s waves to be part of its long-term success, however, the cannabis industry has also lost a lot of talented people as the industry is so unstable from a company formation standpoint.

We have seen this in California, Canada, and in many other markets whereby a company is seemingly successful one week, and can’t pay its bills a week later.

Our Take

Recruiters should be open and honest about the realities of working in cannabis, especially executive employees or those who are coming from seasoned careers in other industries that have very different industry standards.

It’s not stable, to put it plainly, and therefore working in cannabis is not for everyone.

That said, for people who are interested in the opportunity to help build an industry that will positively impact the lives of millions, if not in the future billions of people around the world — there are few industries more interesting than cannabis.