National Public Radio’s recent story about “trimmigrants” was, for many listeners, the stuff that turns hair white. Far from hearing about the $500 that young seasonal trimmers can make for a 14-hour day, parents waited tensely for the phrase “shallow grave” at the end.
It wasn’t there, but the story brought home the mutual danger that growers and workers in an illegal industry pose to each other. As Julia Minton, a resident of Humboldt, the epicenter of California’s illegal growing operations commented, “There is exploitation that goes on on [sic] the part of some growers—wage exploitation, sexual exploitation—real exploitation. Not just little stuff … . No one wants to talk about it at all. It’s a dirty secret.”
Legalization offers a chance to clean this up. Even beyond law enforcement efforts, legitimate marijuana staffing agencies that vet employers and employees can provide security on both sides of the equation. There may be some investment potential in this, as well.
Marijuana staffing and recruiting agencies are, by now, enough of a recognized start-up idea to have their own 15-minute YouTube tutorial. But businesses that provide temporary staff can also provide payroll and tax services. Human resources and insurance are not far behind, nor are many other back-office functions. A little temp agency can begin to look like a full-service business consulting firm without much imagination, at all. Several entrepreneurs have already moved into this niche.
Green Staffing Solutions opened on January 1, 2014, in SeaTac, Washington, to provide temporary and permanent agricultural, retail, warehousing and administrative staff to the legal marijuana industry. It is a minority-focused agency with a goal of providing employment opportunities for women, Asians, Hispanics and African Americans. It requires applicants to be in-state residents, tests for basic English and math skills and screens for violent offenses, felonies, theft and drugs (not THC).
Greene Cross specifically recruits applicants with experienced in MJ Freeway, BioTrackTHC, ADP and other point of sale systems for positions including administrative/receptionists, biochemists, bud tenders, delivery drivers, finance/accounting, growers, graphic artists, information technology, legal professionals, logistics, marketing, operations, packaging, project managers, researchers, sales, scientists, security, trimming, warehouse and web design. Its website also refers to unspecified consulting services.
Hemp Staff describes itself as a medical marijuana staffing and training agency that works with employers in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Its site lists a number of positions in dispensaries, agriculture and edibles. It also offers classes to applicants. The class in February 2015 in Boston appears to focus on patient care and legal requirements in New England states.
Based in Denver, Hemp Temps requires all workers to be in-state residents and to have an MMED-issued Occupational Support or a Key badge before it will place workers in dispensaries or growing operations. Workers must also sign confidentiality agreements on their placement. Hemp Temps appears to have a regular schedule of classes dealing with subjects such as POS systems, trimming and bud tending. In an interview in February of this year, owner Shannon Foreman shared her ambitions to take the company nationwide.
Ms. Mary Staffing offers contract, contract-to-hire and direct placement temporary staffing for both medical and retail operations. Interestingly, it offers administrative assistance including payroll, payroll tax management, workers compensation, unemployment insurance, employee benefits, as well as staffing to employers. The tax management feature saves employers the 10 percent cash tax penalty many businesses are forced to pay because they lack a banking relationship.
Viridian describes itself as a “Fortune 100” recruiter for the cannabis industry and claims to have placed over 5,000 professionals in a variety of fields, including medical marijuana, commercial/consumer cannabis and industrial hemp. Its site also mentions international recruiting experience in Canada as well as several Asian and European countries. The decade of experience they claim apparently extends beyond the legal marijuana industry. The list of potential positions is identical to that of the Greene Cross website.
Ancillary and Scalable
The staffing and recruiting business may not immediately grab an investor’s attention as the sexiest of alternatives, but it is ancillary and easily scalable. Successful consulting businesses can be lucrative, as well. The extra margin of security for both employers and employees that can come with working through a reputable broker is something likely to be in demand for some time as the industry slowly moves into legal status.