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Dispensary Hiring Guide: Must-have Cannabis Retail Staff

25 March 2019  |  17 min read

cannabis dispensary staff

The cannabis industry is thriving. According to Glassdoor, job openings in cannabis increased by 76% in 2018. And according to Leafly, cannabis has created 211,000 full-time jobs in the US as of 2019 and the number of cannabis jobs in the United States is projected to increase another 110% by 2020.

The dramatic increase in cannabis jobs is a direct result of the dramatic increase in dispensaries—which means that while demand for cannabis jobs is booming, so is competition. In order for dispensaries to succeed, they need to understand the current dispensary hiring market—and use that knowledge to build the right team.

Finding and hiring the right team for your recreational or medical marijuana dispensary is crucial; not only will it ensure your customers keep coming back for all their cannabis needs, but it will also ensure that everything on the backend (from compliance to finance to operations) flows smoothly—and your business thrives for years to come.

But how, exactly, do you do that? What are the key roles you need to fill on your dispensary team roster? What should you look for in your key hires? And how do you find—and hire—top talent for your dispensary?

The must haves of dispensary hiring

If you want your dispensary to succeed—or even function—there are certain roles that are non-negotiable. Let's walk through some of the must-hire roles for your dispensary.

1. General Manager

Dispensary General Manager

A ship will sink without a captain—and a dispensary will sink without a general manager.

The general manager is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the dispensary. While trust is an important factor in any new hire, it’s particularly important for your dispensary general manager, since they’ll be acting as your eyes and ears when you’re not on-site at your dispensary.

Key responsibilities

Some of the core job duties of a dispensary store manager include:

  1. Developing standard operating procedures for various dispensary functions, including inventory, education, and security;
  2. Managing dispensary staff, including interviewing, hiring, onboarding, conducting performance evaluations, training, and education;
  3. Creating a dispensary schedule and ensuring proper staffing at all times;
  4. Partnering with the dispensary compliance officer to ensure compliance in inventory management, cash management, reporting, and regulatory protocols;
  5. Facility management, including scheduling any necessary repairs;
  6. Building and maintaining relationships with vendors;
  7. Spearheading marketing initiatives to drive dispensary sales

Key characteristics to look for

A dispensary store manager is a big job, so you want to hire someone who has the ability to wear multiple hats and easily move between tasks. It’s also important to hire someone with impeccable problem-solving skills. With so many different areas of the business to manage, there are going to be issues that crop up daily that need the dispensary manager’s attention—and you want someone who can think on their feet and solve those problems in real time.

Salary expectations

According to cannabis recruiting platform Vangst, the average salary for a dispensary store manager is $56,250 (but, depending on experience and location, can extend up to $98,000).

2. Sales Associate/Budtender

Budtender or Cannabis Sales Associate

If there ever was a jack-of-all-dispensary-trades, it would be the budtender (or, in retail terms, the cannabis sales associate).

Budtenders are, by far, the most consumer-facing role on a dispensary team, making it important to hire someone skilled in managing customer interactions. People who come from retail or service backgrounds tend to do well in this role. The budtender also acts as the in-house experts for your customers—so hire someone who is both knowledgeable and passionate about all-things-cannabis.

Key responsibilities

Some of the core job duties of a budtender/sales associate include:

  1. Providing service to dispensary customers, including educating consumers on various strains, products, consumption methods, and medical marijuana (when applicable);
  2. Handling cash payments and entering transactions into dispensary POS systems;
  3. Maintaining the appearance of the retail sales floor, including merchandising, restocking inventory, and cleaning sales area;
  4. Continuing cannabis education and maintaining up-to-date product knowledge;
  5. Meeting retail sales quotas

Key characteristics to look for

Because budtenders' main responsibility is managing customer interactions, they should be personable, friendly, and service-oriented. They should also be organized, trustworthy, and have extensive knowledge of cannabis products (or if you’re hiring someone entry level, a passion for learning!).

Ideally, budtenders will come with a mix of customer service skills and retail experience. This will prepare them for both the consumer-facing and operational tasks associated with the role. And if they have a background in cannabis? Even better.

Salary expectations

According to Vangst, the average salary for a budtender is $13.25/hour, with more experienced budtenders making up to $16/hour.

3. Inventory Manager

Dispensary Inventory Manager

Depending on the size of your operation, there’s likely going to be a high volume of cannabis product that comes through your dispensary—all of which needs to be meticulously managed, tracked, and documented.

That’s where the inventory manager comes in. This hire will take charge of receiving, stocking, distributing, and tracking inventory. They ensure every product that comes through your doors is properly accounted for and reported.

Key responsibilities

Some of the core job duties of an inventory manager include:

  1. Managing all tasks related to receiving, stocking, distributing, and reporting cannabis products, both recreational and medical marijuana (when applicable);
  2. Reporting all necessary inventory and product information in compliance with state laws and regulations;
  3. Controlling inventory levels and ensuring adequate stock of products;
  4. Complying with all documented security procedures to safeguard inventory;
  5. Managing relationships with suppliers;
  6. Performing regular inventory audits and reconciling inventory information;
  7. Managing seed to sale tracking;
  8. Managing product returns when applicable

Key characteristics to look for

A huge part of an inventory manager’s position is tracking and reporting products, so you want to hire someone who is organized, mathematically minded, and comfortable working with a variety of softwares (including spreadsheets, dispensary compliance software, and state reporting platforms, like Metrc). Someone with a background in inventory management in retail or grocery, for example, would be the ideal hire for this role.

Salary expectations

According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a dispensary inventory manager is $47,979.

4. Security

Dispensary Security

Dispensaries are, for the most part, cash businesses. That means you’re going to have a lot of cash on hand at any given time, making your dispensary a clear target for opportunistic criminals—which is why it’s so important to have security on-site.

Having security on your team protects your staff, your customers, your product, and your investment. Not only will it deter any potential thieves from targeting your dispensary, it will also help protect you from any internal security issues (like stolen inventory).

Key responsibilities

Some of the core job duties of an inventory manager include:

  1. Ensuring the safety of staff, customers, products, and assets at all times;
  2. Monitoring security cameras to detect any potential threats or criminal activity;
  3. Regularly patrol the premises (including sales floor, reception area, and perimeter) to deter any potential threats or criminal activity;
  4. Preventing customers or other unauthorized individuals from entering restricted areas;
  5. Investigating any potential threats or criminal activity and taking appropriate action;
  6. Reporting any security issues to dispensary management when necessary;
  7. Enforcing order, safety, and security within the dispensary at all times

Key characteristics to look for

Your security officer is going to be responsible for keeping your dispensary secure—so they need to be trustworthy and reliable. They also have to be able to enforce the rules when necessary—whether they have to deal with a customer acting out on the dispensary floor or suspect an internal team member of stealing from the company—so they also need to be comfortable when confrontation. Security officers may also need to use physical force, so someone with training on how to de-escalate potentially threatening situations and how and when to use physical force is ideal. Someone with a background in security or loss prevention would be an ideal hire for this role.

Salary expectations

According to ZipRecruiter, dispensary security jobs have an average annual salary of $49,361.

5. Receptionist/Greeter

Dispensary Greeter or Receptionist

You only get a chance to make a first impression once—which is why the receptionist/greeter is such an important role to fill.

Whether over the phone or in person, your receptionist or greeter is going to be a potential customer’s first introduction to your dispensary, so it’s important to hire the right person and make sure the introduction is a positive one.

Key responsibilities

Some of the core job duties of a receptionist/greeter include:

  1. Greet customers when they enter the dispensary;
  2. Checking and scanning customer IDs and ensuring all customers are of legal years of age before entering the dispensary;
  3. Answering phones and fielding calls to appropriate dispensary staff members;
  4. Tracking the daily flow of customers into the dispensary and, if applicable, entering into dispensary compliance software;
  5. Gathering customer contact information for dispensary loyalty programs and documenting medical records, if applicable

Key characteristics to look for

The ideal receptionist or greeter should be friendly, upbeat, and welcoming. They should also be organized. In addition to greeting customers, the receptionist/greeter will also be responsible for checking customer IDs—which is not something you want to slip through the cracks.

The receptionist/greeter is an entry-level position, so you can easily train anyone with the right personality. But if someone has experience as a customer service representative, receptionist, or greeter (for example, at a restaurant), that would certainly be relevant.

Salary expectations

According to Indeed, the average salary for a dispensary receptionist/greeter is $12.73/hour.

6. Compliance/Operations Manager

Dispensary Compliance Manager

There are so many compliance issues surrounding cannabis dispensaries, from getting the right certifications and licenses to maintaining proper financial records to submitting inventory and seed-to-sale tracking information to the necessary authorities. And, bottom line, if you want your dispensary to stay open, you need to hire a compliance/operations manager to make sure you stay compliant.

The compliance officer/operations manager is responsible for making sure the dispensary stays compliant with all local and state laws and regulations. They’re also responsible for staying on top of any changes to applicable laws and adjusting dispensary policies and procedures accordingly.

Key responsibilities

Some of the core job duties of a compliance officer/operations manager include:

  1. Ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal laws and regulations;
  2. Developing, implementing, and managing compliance programs across all departments, including finance, marketing, inventory, reporting, and security;
  3. Staying on top of changes in local, state, and federal laws and regulations and adjusting compliance practices accordingly;
  4. Maintaining proper licensure at the local, state, and federal level;
  5. Training all staff members on proper compliance;
  6. Regularly sourcing new technology to aid compliance measures within the dispensary;
  7. Performing regular audits to ensure all dispensary operations are fully compliant

Key characteristics to look for

Because there are so many compliance issues to juggle—and because cannabis compliance is constantly changing and evolving—you need a compliance officer who is meticulously organized, extremely thorough, and able to juggle multiple compliance issues (like finances and records) without letting anything slip through the cracks. Candidates with a background in law (and, in particular, cannabis law) tend to thrive in this position.

Salary expectations

According to Vangst, the average salary for a compliance manager is $62,500—but, depending on experience and dispensary volume, the salary range can go all the way up to $149,000.

The nice-to-haves of dispensary hiring

We covered the absolute must-have team members you need for your dispensary to succeed. But once you have the must-haves in place, there are definitely other people you can add to your team to take things to the next level and elevate your dispensary to a higher level of success.

Some nice-to-have team members you might want to hire as your dispensary grows include:

  • Cannabis Delivery Driver. If cannabis delivery is legal in your state, hiring a cannabis delivery driver can help you get product into more cannabis consumers hand—and drive serious revenues in the process. Make sure to hire someone with a clean driving record (which is a must for insurance reasons), reliable transportation, and that you trust handling large quantities of both product and cash.
  • Education Officer. One thing the majority of successful dispensaries have in common is a focus on education. Hiring an Education Officer to manage the process of educating staff and developing training materials on products, medical cannabis, consumption methods, and general cannabis knowledge is a great way to ensure your dispensary gets the reputation as the most well-informed in town (and becomes a customer favorite as a result). Hiring someone with a background in corporate training—and a serious knowledge of and interest in cannabis—would be ideal for this role.
  • Human Resources Manager. As your dispensary grows, so will your staff—and hiring a dedicated human resources manager is the best way to facilitate that growth. HR Managers are responsible for onboarding new staff members, running background checks, facilitating trainings, maintaining HR paperwork, payroll, and managing benefit programs. Anyone with a background in human resources could be successful in this role—but someone with an interest in cannabis and/or experience in a budding startup would be ideal.
  • Finance Officer/Accountant. There’s a lot of cash that flows in and out of a dispensary, and you need someone on hand to manage that cash flow. A finance officer or accountant is responsible for maintaining financial records for your business, managing AR/AP, and managing financial reporting. Hiring an in-house financial officer to manage the books is ideal—but if you’re a smaller operation or you don’t have the budget for a full-time person, you can outsource your financials to a part-time CPA or bookkeeper.
  • Marketing Manager. As mentioned, the cannabis business is a competitive one and if you want to grab your ideal customers’ attention, you need the right marketing strategy. There are strict laws about how you can and can not market a dispensary, so hiring a marketing manager with experience in the cannabis industry is a great way to drive business into your dispensary—and avoid any potential compliance issues.
  • Brand Ambassador. If there are cannabis influencers in your city, partnering with them for influencer marketing campaigns—and essentially making them a brand ambassador for your dispensary—can help drive people into your dispensary. Just be prepared to spend a good chunk of your budget; influencers (especially influencers with a large, engaged following) typically charge a hefty fee for sponsored posts.
Dispensary check in

Dispensary hiring tips

So, now that you know who you need to hire, let’s talk about how. How do you find, hire, and retain the best cannabis talent in the business? Here are a few general dispensary hiring tips to keep in mind as you’re sourcing, interviewing, and hiring your team:

  • Experience isn’t everything. Cannabis is an emerging industry, so not everyone you interview is going to have direct experience in the cannabis space—but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be a slam dunk for the role or your team. Instead of focusing on cannabis experience or job title during the hiring process (which great candidates may or may not have), look for relevant skills, transferable experience, and candidates who would be a good culture fit.
  • Make your dispensary a place people want to work. As mentioned, the number of dispensary jobs and opportunities in the cannabis space is exploding—which means you’re not just interviewing talent, they’re also interviewing you. If you want to attract and retain the best dispensary associates, you need to make your dispensary a place people want to work. Offer benefits, invest in employee training and onboarding, and cultivate an environment that makes your team excited to go to work.
  • Post in the right places. Mainstream job resources, like Indeed and LinkedIn, can be a great resource for job posting and finding quality candidates. But in addition to tapping mainstream resources, you’ll also want to post any open roles on cannabis and medical marijuana industry-specific job boards. Some of the most visible cannabis boards for job postings include:
  • Tap into your network. The best hires often come from personal recommendations—so tapping your network (including your current staff) is a great place to find the best talent for your dispensary. In order to incentivize your network to refer top talent, offer a referral bonus for every recommendation you bring on as dispensary staff.
  • Sponsor, host, or exhibit at a cannabis career event. Just like traditional job fairs, there are cannabis job fairs—and as the industry grows, these hiring events will just become more frequent. Get involved—either as a sponsor, host, exhibitor, or attendee—and tap these events to find quality candidates for your dispensary hiring.
  • Don’t forget about compliance. Many states have specific laws about who can and can not work in a dispensary as well as specific processes and procedures you need to follow during the hiring process—so hiring staff in California is going to be different than hiring staff in Colorado or Massachusetts. Make sure you understand any relevant hiring laws, rules, or regulations—and make sure you follow them. For some additional compliance guidelines, check out our compliance checklist for first-time dispensary owners.
  • Document SOPs. Standard operating procedures create clear, consistent processes in your store. Create an employee management SOP to outline your processes for recruiting, hiring, onboarding, monitoring, training, reviewing, rewarding, and firing.

Ultimately, your dispensary’s success hinges on your team. So get out there and find the best talent to take your cannabis business to the next level!

If you're interested in point-of-sale software that helps your dispensary stay compliant and grow revenue, request a demo of Flowhub.

Headshot_Deanna de Bara

Deanna deBara

Cannabis Industry Advocate

Deanna deBara is a Flowhub contributor who specializes in covering all things cannabis. She has written on cannabis related topics for major outlets like Playboy and Glamour as well as for cannabis-centric outlets like Leafly and Weedmaps. A passionate advocate for cannabis legalization, she hopes to further the industry and help Flowhub customers thrive through education. Connect with Deanna on LinkedIn.

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