Cannabis Q&A: California Cannabis and The Great Resignation

January 25, 2022

Welcome to our Q&A with partner, Jennifer Gumer!

As a partner at CGL and our Regulatory and Compliance Practice Lead, Jennifer provides strategic counseling, practical advice, and expert advocacy to clients with production needs. As an Adjunct Professor of Law and Bioethics, she is uniquely qualified to handle all interactions with federal, state, and local regulators who oversee product development, manufacturing, and marketing activities, including the FDA and Local Hemp Regulators.

Cannabis Q&A: California Cannabis and The Great Resignation: What Can Be Done To Address the Current Hiring and Retention Crisis?

Since 2017, the legal cannabis industry in the US has experienced incredible growth – averaging 27.5% each year. Accordingly to Leafly, no other industry even comes close to matching the significant growth seen by the legal cannabis market. The Leafly report goes on to note that job creation within the US legal cannabis market has increased 161% over the past 4 years. 

Now, we’re seeing increased reporting on labor shortages within the cannabis market. A recent MJBiz article outlined the significant competition for cannabis workers in California, noting the shortage of commercial drivers as well as the high costs for budtenders, operations specialists, and packagers. 

The Great Resignation – that is, the current trend where US workers are resigning from their current jobs in droves to seek remote work and flexibility – is compounding issues for the cannabis industry. Many cannabis positions require workers to live locally, since the work is taking place in retail stores, behind the scenes in warehouses or cultivation, or delivery. 

As a result, workers are demanding higher wages and better conditions from employers who are struggling to compete with massive companies (like Amazon and Best Buy) while also trying to price products against a thriving illicit market. 

But, that’s not to say California cannabis employers can’t do anything to address the labor shortage. Instead, we’re seeing cannabis employers get creative with the strategies they are using to attract and retain workers. 

Here are some strategies to help address the current hiring and retention crisis: 

Provide training for workers.

A recent Inc article highlighted that some companies are embedding education into the employee journey to encourage longer-term relationships with workers. The piece notes that training helps to stave off boredom while generating a workforce that meets your company’s evolving needs.  

Outline clear career progression opportunities for workers.

When workers know and understand what they need to do to progress in their careers, they tend to remain more motivated and engaged at work. For employers, this means that providing workers with milestones that correlate with career progression opportunities (whether that’s a promotion, opportunities for further training, a wage increase, or more responsibilities) can help your company attract and retain employees. 

Read our guidance on career advancement policies.

Offer cash incentives for meeting production milestones. 

The MJBiz article contained anecdotes from cannabis employers who suggested their workers were increasingly tying their value to their production, not their experience. The article goes on to highlight that some employers are offering commission-based incentives for budtenders, resulting in potential to earn an additional $1000 per month. 

Reconsider your hiring criteria. 

Your candidate profiles may be limiting your potential pool of applicants. Narrow candidate profiles that require unnecessary education or years of experience are likely to deter talented candidates. If your business is struggling to attract or retain diverse talent, it might be wise to rethink the profiles you use in your hiring. 


We recently shared some tips for surviving The Great Reshuffle in our email newsletter. Feel free to read that article for more information.


The materials available at this website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this website or any of the e-mail links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between CGL and the user or browser. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney.

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