Cannabis HR is (Mostly) Just Like Any Other Industry

Cannabis HR is (Mostly) Just Like Any Other Industry

By and large, the cannabis industry’s approach to human resources is like any other industry. At its heart, companies must remain compliant to state and federal regulations. However, due to its legal status, cannabis presents hurdles that other industries don’t have to consider.

Businesses in the industry must have compliance in its plans from day one on. The allure of exponential growth is always present. However, it cannot trump the need for staying on the right side of the rules. Otherwise, an error can lead to costly fines, lawsuits and potentially the end of a viable business.

First and foremost, always understand the laws. Rapidly changing cannabis laws are common in numerous states. At the federal level, rules have remained the same, save for recent changes to hemp thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill.

However, states are a completely different story. For example, in California, regulations concerning taxes changed in numerous municipalities. Meanwhile, states like Maine saw what citizens vote into law change as the state’s Congress passed a bill with different provisions. Meanwhile, states like New Jersey successfully pushed to raise the minimum percentage for women and minority-owned cannabis ventures.

These regulation changes represent just a sliver of what is occurring in markets across the United States. Such changes continue to take place in open markets as well as developing recreational and medicinal states.

As such, it is imperative that businesses stay informed of laws on a continual basis. Reading trade industry news is essential. Networking can be just as beneficial as well. Whichever works best for the company, stay informed.

Staying informed of the laws and regulations is a company-wide effort. While HR and Chief Compliance Officers shoulder the responsibility, it is the entire team’s job to stay informed.

HR Managers and other executives ensure that all team members embody this spirit. By hiring informed professionals who are eager to learn, the company places itself in an ideal position to remain compliant. The interview process should thoroughly vet the candidates. Having a recruitment plan is a useful component of the process. There, teams can lay out the purpose of the hiring, clear goals for the person, who will be involved in the interview process and even which questions must be asked.

Using a recruitment plan also helps target ideal candidates by analyzing the company’s source of applicants. If the organization does not find ideal applicants, changes to marketing and advertising efforts may be in order. Doing so could re-target where the job listing can be found and who sees it. In other more extreme cases, an assessment of the company’s reputation may be to uplift public perception. However, this has rarely been the case in cannabis to date.

Speaking of job listings, companies need to dedicate the time to craft detailed job listings. Doing so provides applicants with a transparent look at the company and what is expected of the role. Doing so establishes clear communication and expectations before a person is even hired. Additionally, doing so lessens the chance of any hiring or employment lawsuits that can stem from poor communication.

Lawsuits are a concern at all points of the hiring process and into employment. To avoid them, HR is central in keeping employment information presented as stipulated by state and federal regulations. The company must also share the information. While this isn’t a law, it is a must for organizations.

Employee handbooks are just as vital in cannabis as they would be in any other organization. Whether working in large or small teams, handbooks appear to be one of the top ways to keep teams informed of rules, regulations, and internal processes. More so, manuals state the values of the company and provide a set of principles and guidelines of the brand. In doing so, the chances of workplace litigation can drop significantly.

Human Resources must also engage the team just as any office would. Learning about the needs and goals of the team remains vital in keeping turnover low and satisfaction at a high.

One of the more discussed topics in most workplaces is the future of work. The modern concept has hit cannabis despite the market not being apart of the past of work. That said, HR leaders in marijuana must account for workplace changes just like any industry. Human Resource teams and leaders will have to factor in what automation may do to the workplace.

Meanwhile, forecasting new career opportunities will be an ever-present part of the job. That includes reshaping roles in the office as well as considering working with the freelance workforce.

In all, the role of human resources is not drastically different from many other industries. However, the differences between cannabis and others create a significant amount of work for people professionals. The need for continuous compliance becomes that much more significant in marijuana. Meanwhile, engaging employees, insurance, retirement plans and other everyday demands of the job are just as present in the sector.

HR’s role is demanding. That fact only becomes that much more clear if the company does not have a Chief Compliance Officer or a dedicated HR team. A single person operation is feasible. However, they will have a heavy duty to take on. Experienced leaders in the space should have no problem adjusting to the rigors of the cannabis industry. That said, thanks to current regulations the work will be that much more taxing in several areas of the business.


David Kani

David Kani is a Newport Beach, California based business lawyer with a focus on cannabis companies, their investors, employees and cannabis-related litigation.
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