Editor’s note: This story was originally published by Missouri Business Alert, a member of the KC Media Collective, which also includes Startland News, KCUR 89.3, American Public Square, Kansas City PBS/Flatland, and The Kansas City Beacon.
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COLUMBIA, Missouri — Marijuana employers across the state are hiring a flood of new workers as businesses prepare to sell adult-use cannabis.
After Missouri voters approved a ballot initiative in November that fully legalized marijuana, existing cannabis businesses that applied to convert their licenses will begin selling recreational marijuana as soon as Friday. Some employers expect revenue to spike as much as 250 percent.
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The growing industry is attracting new workers to Missouri, said Jamie Collins, human resources director at Agri-Genesis, which operates five dispensaries in Missouri under the name Sunrise Cannabis. The business has been hiring since recreational marijuana was legalized, and it’s looking to hire about 30 more employees to its team of 120, Collins said.
“It felt like the moment that recreational passed, there was an influx of candidates, not just from Missouri, but also from out of state,” she said. “The feedback from that is, a lot of people had been looking to move to Missouri or move back to Missouri because that’s where their family is, and it kind of gave them the opportunity to do so.”
There tends to be a need for about 20 to 25 workers for every $1 million in sales, said Sloane Barbour, the co-founder of New York-based hiring platform Engin Sciences and marijuana job website CareersInCannabis.com. Missouri’s market is expected to grow as much as $900 million annually by 2025, which opens the industry’s job market quite a bit.
“That’s like 20,000 to 25,000 jobs,” Barbour said. “Not like, oh, in the next 10 years — like, literally in the next three.”
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Greenlight Dispensary, which operates 15 stores across the state and applied for recreational licenses at each, is expecting to hire 80 new employees, CEO John Mueller said.
Greenlight is also renovating its stores to add features like drive-thrus to accommodate the growing customer base. These expansions are creating secondary jobs, too, Mueller said, like construction workers, service providers and security personnel.
The cannabis industry is attractive for many who want to rise through the ranks quickly, Barbour said. People who enter the industry now instantly become some of the most experienced in the legalized market, just because it’s so new, he said.
As the job market grows in Missouri and across the country, many people and groups are working to build accessibility and opportunity for applicants from underrepresented groups. That’s especially true of Black communities, which have experienced a history of incarceration due to cannabis.
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40 Tons Brand in Los Angeles hosts career conferences across the country that focus on diversity and inclusion and provide resources for people with past cannabis convictions, co-founders Anthony and Loriel Alegrete said.
The events introduce interested workers to people hiring in the industry. They also offer expungement clinics and free services such as headshots, resume workshops and LinkedIn optimization.
Employers have a social responsibility to be inclusive, Loriel Alegrete said. “It’s everybody’s responsibility to at least have that conversation on a social level and allow people to just have conversations about what’s needed,” she said.
Employers need to consider that applicants could have past felonies due to cannabis, Anthony Alegrete said. Those hires will likely benefit business, he said.
“Being in the cannabis industry in the legacy market is actually a bonus,” he said. “It’s actually a benefit for these companies, because they have experience whereas some new person may not.”
“The more skill sets you have, and the more branding that you have, and the more indispensable you make yourself as an individual, you have more chances of climbing your career in this cannabis industry,” he added.
Skyler Rossi is the senior digital editor at Missouri Business Alert.