ORLANDO, Fla. - Since the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida two years ago, cannabis businesses have been opening all over the Sunshine State, creating new jobs within the health industry.
HempStaff, a Key Largo, Florida-based company, has been offering marijuana dispensary training around the country, and now in Florida since the passage of Amendment 2.
This week, the company will host a course in Orlando, where multiple medical marijuana shops have opened in the last year.
HempStaff CEO James Yagielo founded the company in 2014, anticipating the first Constitutional Amendment would pass. After it failed to receive 60 percent voter approval, Yagielo and his wife, Rosie, expanded their business nationally.
"As soon as the vote didn't happen, it was like an island on our own," Yagielo said.
Since then, HempStaff has hosted more than 100 training sessions around the country. The course is designed for people who want to work in the industry and is localized for the laws in each state where the training takes place. Yagielo described the course as 20 percent state focused and 80 percent science and customer service oriented.
In 2016, Florida voters overwhelming passed Amendment 2 with 71 percent of the vote legalizing medical cannabis in the Sunshine State. It is, however, still illegal to smoke marijuana. Dispensaries offer a variety of THC oils and edibles.
With the first Florida locations opening, the need for employees with knowledge of the industry continues to grow.
In most states, potential cannabis industry employees must be hired by a licensed company before they can acquire a worker's card. The card is tied to their employer and would be voided should they leave.
The only restriction in Florida to work in the industry requires workers to be over 21 years old with no previous felony convictions.
Yagielo said he started HempStaff to meet a demand for education that states weren't doing on their own. A certification isn't required in Florida, but Yagielo said when new dispensaries open they can get up to 200 applications and if someone took the time for training it gives them an edge above other applicants.
Some dispensary owners pay for their whole staff to attend HempStaff courses.
As for demand, Yagielo said because the Florida industry is still new, most businesses are looking for cultivation workers, the people who prepare the medical cannabis doses to be sold.
“Right now, cultivation workers are the highest in demand, as many of the newer licensees are just ramping up operations now," Yagielo said. "Though as more dispensaries open and cultivation centers become established with their employees, we expect that to switch to dispensary agents."
Job search websites, including Indeed.com, show open positions in Florida for dispensary associates, purchasing/inventor coordinators and supervisors. A large number of medical marijuana physicians are in demand as well. There are more than 1,000 Florida doctors who can prescribe medical marijuana as of February 2018, according to Florida Department of Health Records.
At Trulieve, a dispensary with locations in Florida, a retail production coordinator makes $15 per hour, according to Glassdoor.com. Some positions that require more specific skills, such as a cannabis edibles chef posting, pays up to $65,000 a year at Trulieve.
A recent CNN report shows that potential employees with advance science degrees in botany, chemistry or pharmacology have the opportunity to make six figures in the cannabis industry.
Chemists can make between $35,000 and $45,000 starting out and processing managers make up to $120,000 annually.
Not just anyone can walk through the door and get medical marijuana. Residents need a valid prescription from a doctor just to get to the counter.
"The doctor will qualify them, add them to the state database, they get an ID card from Florida," said Victoria Walker, who works in community relations with Trulieve. "Once they have that, they can go shopping in a store."
Besides Trulieve, Knox Medical, Curaleaf, Surterra Therapeutics and Liberty Health Sciences are the only companies -- some with multiple locations in Florida -- licensed to sell cannabis products in the state, according to the Florida Office of Medical Marijuana Use.
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