Drug testing after marijuana legalization will become a sticky issue.
Drug testing after marijuana legalization will become a sticky issue.

This Cannabis Headhunter Sorts L.A.'s Stoners From Skilled Pros

Type “marijuana” or “cannabis” into Craigslist on any given day and you'll see at least 100 related job openings in Los Angeles, from medical marijuana motorcycle delivery drivers and budtenders to sales reps, armed guards and nursery workers. There are also entire online job boards — such as 420 Careers, THC Jobs and Ganjapreneur — dedicated to listing cannabis-related employment opportunities. Even some mainstream job-seeking sites such as Indeed now list marijuana gigs alongside more conventional finance, retail and telecommunications listings.

But sometimes it’s hard to filter the stoners, looking for a chance to get high at work, from the pot professionals looking to build a career in an explosive industry that’s expected to be worth $7 billion in California alone.

That’s where Michael Ethan and THC Talent Solutions comes in. Founded in 2012, this cannabis-specific recruitment agency based in the San Fernando Valley focuses on matching some of the nation's top retail, wholesale, pharmaceutical and medical marijuana businesses with the dankest of employees.

“They want to find qualified talent with the skill set and the background for the roles that they’re filling,” says Ethan, 45. It’s his job to filter out prospective workers who just want to, as he puts it, “get a free sack at work or get stoned with your colleagues.”

While the cannabis biz may still seem unconventional, the businesses looking to hire staff have the same priorities as any other, Ethan says. He would know; before launching THC Talent Solutions, he had worked for a decade as a recruiter for traditional businesses. When the marijuana industry began to take off, Ethan recognized the growing need for a specialized recruitment firm dedicated to cannabis companies.

Ethan currently has five employees, he says, and works with a mix of established and startup brands. Over the years, Talent Solutions has helped more than 50 clients, he says, from local dispensaries and edibles producers to marijuana-related software developers and equipment manufacturers. Although based in L.A., Ethan’s company works nationally, offering staffing and recruitment services in 23 states where medical or recreational marijuana is legalized. A large portion of the company's business is concentrated in California, Washington and Colorado.

Not too surprisingly, there turns out to be an outpouring of folks clamoring to work in the industry, so Talent Solutions has a big pool to pull from. The company fills about 100 to 120 jobs per year, Ethan estimates.

“We have an abundance of candidates, more than we could possibly help unfortunately,” Ethan says. “We’ve established a very robust database of both local and nationwide candidates and we’re always adding talent to the mix.”

In addition to the trimmers, dispensary managers and brand ambassadors, Talent Solutions has scouted for highly trained attorneys to represent marijuana businesses at their infancy, and skilled extraction artists with degrees in chemistry who can distill cannabis from marijuana flowers and turn it into edibles or concentrate.

While many applicants may be able to list “familiarity” with the product on their résumé, many don’t have any actual experience in the industry. THC Talent Solutions tries to help with that as well, offering customized online training courses for anyone looking for a career in cannabis, Ethan says. The company offers courses and certifications in budtending, growing and horticulture, safety and regulation, and more.

According to a report released last year by the Marijuana Business Journal, the marijuana industry has become a “major job generator” and now employs nearly 150,000 people, in jobs that range from minimum wage to nearly six-figure yearly salaries. To put this employment figure in context, the Journal reports that there is roughly the same number of people employed in the cannabis business as there are flight attendants, web developers or librarians in the country.

Since marijuana was legalized in California in November, THC Talent Solutions has seen a surge in demand, especially from new businesses looking to establish legal recreational operations, Ethan says. Although today Ethan’s surrounded by cannabis companies (and he admits he smoked some pot back in his college days), there’s no product sampling allowed at work. In fact, Ethan has a strict “no smoking” policy in the office.

Even without all the trimmings, Ethan says, working in the cannabis industry is an exhilarating place to be.

“It’s much more fun, it’s much more exciting, it’s definitely an interesting space with a lot of opportunity,” Ethan says. “The people who are involved in (the marijuana industry) are pioneers and trailblazers.”

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