CVIndependent

Sun08252019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

As we approach the one-year anniversary of legal cannabis in California, the Coachella Valley has gone through many changes—specifically on the employment front.

As this new industry has evolved, so have the career prospects in the region, with many cannabis employers in the Coachella Valley ramping up to hire in large numbers in 2019. Understandably, many potential employees have questions about careers in the cannabis industry—and there are a few things any prospective employee should know before jumping in.

The job opportunities are numerous and continuing to grow along with the industry, ranging from entry-level jobs, such as budtenders and trimmers, to high-level growers and professional roles, such as human-resource work and executive leadership. While the high-end jobs can pay up to six figures, it is taking some time for the industry to catch up in terms of pay and benefits, although things are beginning to level out.

Remember that the majority of the cannabis companies in the Coachella Valley are ever-evolving, meaning companies are not as stable as many potential employees would like. Some these companies have experienced a level of “sticker shock” at the market rate for qualified employees. Brian Harmsen, CEO of Designworks Talent in Palm Springs, which specializes in cannabis job placement, cautions that although the cannabis industry is catching up, it is still behind the curve because of its infancy. He said it’s critical that any new employee understand the scope of the work—and understand the challenges currently facing the industry. Anyone interested in entering the industry must keep in mind it is an industry in flux, and therefore may not be good for those who are not flexible, he said. As with all startup industries, there are many kinks that will take time to work out. Harmsen said startup cannabis companies are risky, often disorganized, sometimes messy, fast-changing, and lacking in infrastructure. If you don’t have the ability to tolerate the dynamics of the industry in its current state, you may want to consider waiting until the California cannabis industry is more established, he said.

The instability and newness do not mean employees aren’t entitled to the protections afforded to them by U.S. and California labor laws—and many cannabis companies are hiring people without fully understanding the legalities of being an employer, breaking labor laws and thus putting their companies at risk. Jerry Cooksey, director of marketing and employment brand at Designworks Talent, said employees need to know their rights to ensure they are protected, especially as more and more cannabis companies are coming online and ramping up their hiring.

The fact that the industry is new affects both sides on the hiring equation; there are not a lot of people experienced in the cannabis industry for companies to hire. Because of these challenges, cannabis companies must carefully consider how they do their workforce planning in order to recruit the best talent. Cooksey said cannabis companies need to fully understand their brands and who they are, identify their workforce values, determine employee support (such as benefits and compensation packages), clearly define employment needs (including job analyses), and ensure they have legitimized their ability as an employer by understanding labor law and making sure they have all of the required insurance in place.

If you have determined you can tolerate the current state of the industry and are looking to be hired, Harmsen suggested that potential employees consider the size of the company and its culture, ask questions, and look at how the company is branding and marketing itself. Also: Take queues from the interview.

There is no doubt the “green rush” is bringing new employment opportunities to the Coachella Valley. The potential for economic development in cities like Desert Hot Springs, Coachella, Indio and Cathedral City is unprecedented, and each large facility opening can mean between 150 to 300 new jobs. As things level out in the coming years, we can expect to see a solvent and strong workforce in cannabis throughout the Coachella Valley.

Robin Goins is a business consultant for DR.G Consulting and works extensively in the cannabis industry in the Coachella Valley. For more information, visit www.drrobingoins.com.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

Finding work in the Coachella Valley is not an easy task—unless you’re looking for a low-paying job without much opportunity for advancement.

Even people with a lot of skills and great work histories have trouble finding satisfying work. I have heard of people with doctorates in Spanish taking jobs as housekeepers just to pay the bills. I came out of the service industry, and taught in the culinary program at a community college for 13 years; I mistakenly assumed my skills would be in high demand when I came to the desert. Instead, I have had to hustle to find meaningful employment.

This is why the jobs the newish and thriving cannabis industry is bringing to the Coachella Valley are needed and welcome.

On Indeed.com alone, at last check, there were 11 local marijuana-industry positions paying $50,000 a year or more listed. It’s estimated that there are approximately 123,000 full-time jobs in the legal cannabis industry in the U.S., with more than a third of those jobs located here in California—and research firm BDS Analytics estimates that number will double in three years.

With all this talk of a “Green Rush,” it is easy to see how people might be drawn to the possibility of stock options and the chance to help build a company—and industry—from the ground floor. However, there are some things to consider when applying for work in the marijuana industry.

First and foremost: Not everyone will be supportive of your new career choice. After 50 years of prohibition, people have built up a lot of prejudices. I have heard stories about people being told that they’re destroying the possibility of future careers outside of the industry, and/or throwing away their current potential. Hopefully, here in California, that will not be the case—but these prejudices do exist and need to be considered. Before I started writing this column for the Independent, I had to take into consideration what friends, family and future employers would think once a Google search of my name turned up regular articles about cannabis.

Since the industry is so new and under development, you should do some research to make sure the company you are applying with is state-licensed. The Bureau of Cannabis Control is working hard to make sure that non-licensed companies are either brought into compliance with state law—or put out of business.

Furthermore, make sure you understand the rules and regulations of the industry—and there are a lot of them. Not only are there a bunch of currently changing state laws; every city has its own set of rules. Knowing the rules will give you a leg up on the competition and show your future employer you’re serious and not just looking for some discount smokes. By the way, it is currently not legal for cannabis companies to give away any product samples. Budtenders are supposed to be paying the same price for the merchandise as any consumer.

As with any job, networking is key. Attending conferences like the recent Palm Springs Cannabis Film Festival and Summit is a way to get yourself noticed; so, too, are job fairs. Locally, the Coachella Valley Cannabis Alliance Network has a monthly networking dinner the first Monday of every month. If you find a company you would like to work for, try to make a connection. If you are looking to be a budtender, go into the dispensary and talk to the current budtenders to make sure it’s a place you would like to work. Alternately, reach out via Linkedin for an informational interview—or to just take someone out for coffee.

Additionally, research the types of jobs that interest you and for which you think you would be qualified. Just because you love smoking pot, that doesn’t mean you are ready to be the CFO of a cannabis company.

Finally—and I would think that this goes without saying, but friends in the industry tell me otherwise—do NOT show up to a job interview stoned. No employer is going to hire someone who comes to an interview impaired.

When it comes to jobs, the cannabis industry is really no different than any other, aside from the rapid rate of expansion and its quickly changing rules and regulations. The industry is becoming less Cheech and Chong and more Harvard Business School every day.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

Dear Mexican: Where is my America? I’m half-Hispanic and half-Italian. I was born on Coney Island to a drug-addicted father and was raised by my mom, who had to work. We were very poor. I’ve always had to struggle for basic possessions. Spanish was not spoken in my house, so my Spanish is muy malo. I’ve worked since I was 15, barking on the games in Coney Island.

I went to culinary school and became a chef. I’ve worked in the industry for 10 years. It is inundated with illegal Mexican workers. Most of these guys are OK, and they are willing to work longer hours, for less pay. Gone is the eight-hour work day. Nobody gets health coverage. It’s rare to get a paid vacation. It’s rare not to work six days a week. I feel the influx of illegal workers has lowered labor standards for all workers in the industry. I believe it also creates a population of second-class people ripe for abuses. Plus, these guys got skill: They are fast and focused. They never complain and think that complaining a problem in itself. I feel like I can be easily replaced with an illegal worker with whom I can’t compete.

I don’t mind helping out people who need work. But where can I go? Most restaurants are small businesses, and hiring illegal workers is part of the business plan. Where can I go to have my American Dream? I’ve also been called gringo, whitey and pelón by illegals who, it seems, have never heard of civil rights.

Coney Island Angry

Dear Gabacho: I was mostly with you in your letter—yes, American worker rights have suffered during the Great Recession; no, it ain’t the fault of Mexicans. Robber barons are the culprit choking labor now, just like when the Molly Maguires were raising hell in Pennsylvania coal mines.

Then you started whining that the Mexican cocineros you worked alongside with in kitchens called you names. So you’re upset that they called you two types of gabacho, and a baldy, to boot? That just means they thought you were enough of a friend that they felt they could bust your balls. But obviously, they didn’t trust you too much—otherwise, they’d give you worse names. And I’m not talking about the parade of pendejo, puto and güey that any male in an all-Mexican environment must endure. You haven’t earned a Mexican squad’s trust until you have an insulting nickname—the more inappropriate, the better.

In my time, I’ve known of Mexicans in workplaces whose nicknames were El Taliban (for the man’s beard), El Perico (The Parrot, for the guy’s taste in cocaine), El Maricón (The Faggot, because the hombre was gay—he laughed it off, especially when learning more than a few of his macho co-workers were on the down-low), El Panzón (The Fatass) and—my all-time favorite—La Panocha (The Pussy), because homeboy was a player.

But I’m a nice guy, so I’ll give you a new nickname: El Chavala. You can look it up!

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

On this week's mind-challenging Independent comics page: This Modern World looks at the thoughts of the counter-intuitivist; Jen Sorenson examines the job market in the America of the future; The K Chronicles wonders what in the world is going on in Seattle; and Red Meat has some winter fun.

Published in Comics