Pot training

Finding people with experience in recreational marijuana cultivation can be tough in an industry that just recently became legal in Oregon.

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Like many recent entrants to the recreational marijuana growers’ sector, Ben Nadolny is searching for skilled staff to expand his business. 

“As an employer, you don’t get a resume where cannabis is on it,” says Nadolny, owner of Fox Hollow Flora near Eugene. 

Hiring skilled staff can be a challenge in many sectors; but in the rapidly growing recreational marijuana industry the recruitment hurdles are particularly high.

Many cannabis businesses are so new they are still building out critical operations, such as marketing and compliance. Recruitment is high on their agenda.

The marijuana sector offers living wage jobs and has the potential to be an important source of income, particularly in economically depressed rural areas where there is little else employment opportunity.

Nadolny has hired cooks — a profession he knows well from his previous job as an executive chef at a winery. “At least I can give them a dollar more an hour,” he says.

He plans to hire someone who can fill a marketing position. 

Recruiting people who can navigate the sector’s many regulations is also a priority for businesses.

Strict regulations cross many areas of the sector from weighing and measuring products, getting worker permits, to paying taxes.

Legal fees were becoming a burden for Nectar Markets, a retailer and grower of marijuana, that management hired someone to take care of compliance, said Devra Karlebach, chief operating officer.

“We brought on an inhouse attorney because our legal bills were so high,” she said.

Nadolny wishes a local college would offer a cannabis business program so that he can hire people who can show they have industry knowledge.

“What a great thing to have on a resume,” he said. “Right now I can’t confirm somebody’s experience because there is no accreditation.”

No Oregon higher education institutions offer marijuana businesses courses yet.

But an official accreditation may be in the cards for an industry that is fast becoming an important employer in the state.