Dispensary Hiring Guide: Must-have Cannabis Retail Staff

Dispensary staffing

This post was originally published on March 25, 2019, and was updated to reflect 2021 trends.

The cannabis industry is thriving. According to Leafly, legal cannabis supports 321,000 full-time jobs as of January 2021. And Vangst found that 68% of cannabis businesses are looking to increase their headcount.

The consistent 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 your dispensary to succeed, you need to understand the current cannabis market and its trends. Then hire the right people to strategically fill the roles that will set you up for success.

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But executing on this can be challenging.

Read on to learn what employee roles you need to have, as well as those that are nice to have. With each role, we’ll outline key responsibilities, characteristics to look for, and current salary expectations.

The must haves of dispensary hiring

If you want your dispensary to succeed — or even function — there are certain roles that are non-negotiable. Here are 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 at your dispensary.

Key responsibilities

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

  1. Developing/implementing standard operating procedures for various dispensary functions, including inventory, check in, 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.

  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 and ensuring cleanliness.

  6. Building and maintaining relationships with vendors.

  7. Spearheading marketing initiatives to drive dispensary sales.

Key characteristics to look for

  • Strong leadership skills

  • Ability to multi-task and wear multiple hats

  • Impeccable problem-solving skills

  • Able to analyze the business and create growth based on analysis

  • Experience managing teams

  • Understanding of, or experience in, the cannabis industry

Salary expectations

According to cannabis recruiting platform, Vangst, the average salary for a dispensary store manager is $62,500. The low end is $55,000 and the high is $70,125, though regional variances do occur.

2. Sales Associate/Budtender

dispensary budtender

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 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 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 strains, products, consumption methods, and medical marijuana (when applicable).

  2. Handling cash payments and entering transactions into your dispensary POS system.

  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

  • Cannabis enthusiasts

  • Friendly, personable, service-oriented

  • Experience in retail customer service

  • Trustworthy Willing to stay for the long-haul — there is a lot of turnover at the budtender position

  • A passion for learning and staying current on cannabis products and trends

Salary expectations

According to Vangst, the average salary for a budtender is $15/hour, with more experienced budtenders making up to $17/hour. These wages have increased in recent years.

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 door 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. Developing/implementing standard operating procedures specific to inventory intake, auditing, and control.

  3. Reporting all necessary inventory and product information in compliance with state laws and regulations.

  4. Controlling inventory levels, ordering products, and ensuring adequate stock.

  5. Complying with all documented security procedures to safeguard inventory.

  6. Managing relationships with suppliers.

  7. Performing regular inventory audits and reconciling inventory information.

  8. Managing seed-to-sale tracking.

  9. Managing product returns when applicable.

Key characteristics to look for

  • Highly organized - inventory managers will have to track and report on all products coming and going from your dispensary.

  • Knows how to use a variety of software - they’ll be working with spreadsheets, dispensary compliance software, and state reporting platforms, like Metrc.

  • Mathematically minded - these managers will be working with numbers consistently, make sure they’re comfortable doing so.

  • A background in inventory management (at a dispensary or other retail) is ideal.

Salary expectations

According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a dispensary inventory manager is $49,175.

4. Security

dispensary security guard

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).

Keep in mind, a security guard is only part of what a dispensary needs for a robust cannabis security plan.

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, and ensure cameras are operating as expected.

  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.

  8. Developing/implementing standard operating procedures specific to safety and security.

Key characteristics to look for

  • Someone trustworthy and reliable - your security officer needs to be on time, consistently available, and a person that you can count on.

  • Comfortable with confrontation - security officers will face confrontation and need to be willing to enforce the rules.

  • Trained to de-escalate dangerous situations - security officers may need to use physical force in some situations, make sure to find someone with a background suited to this.

Salary expectations

According to ZipRecruiter, dispensary security jobs have an average annual salary of $41,911.

5. Receptionist/Greeter

dispensary hiring tips

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

Whether over the phone or in person, your receptionist or greeter is going to be a 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. Greeting customers when they enter the dispensary.

  2. Checking and scanning customer IDs and ensuring all customers are of legal 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

  • Friendly, upbeat, and welcoming

  • Well organized and capable of multitasking

  • Willing to learn - this is an entry-level position so you have the opportunity to train this person in the way you want things done

  • Detail-oriented - they’ll be checking IDs and managing the queue at the door, which must be done correctly to be compliant

Salary expectations

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

6. Compliance/Operations Manager

dispensary operations manager

Compliance is crucial for cannabis dispensaries. You must get the right certifications and licenses, maintain proper financial records, and submit inventory and seed-to-sale tracking information to the necessary authorities.

Bottom line, if you want your dispensary to stay open, you need to hire a compliance/operations manager to keep you 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

  • Meticulously organized and extremely thorough

  • Capable of juggling multiple compliance issues (like finances and records)

  • Background in law (preferably cannabis law)

  • Those who are capable of keeping up with the ever-changing compliance laws surround cannabis

Salary expectations

According to Zip Recruiter, the average salary for a compliance manager is $61,540 — but, depending on experience and dispensary volume, the salary range can go all the way up to $128,000.

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 those team members in place, there are other people you can add to take your dispensary to the next level.

Some nice-to-have team members 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’ hands — and garner 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 can 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 and interest in cannabis — would be ideal for this role.

  • Human Resources Manager. As your dispensary grows, so will your staff. 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 training, 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 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 ( essentially making them a brand ambassador for your dispensary) can help drive people into your store. 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.

  • IT Professional. With the increasing amount of technology entering the cannabis industry, it’s important to make sure everything is working correctly. An IT professional can help you troubleshoot day-to-day tech problems and also streamline the best tech partners for your unique dispensary needs.

Dispensary hiring tips

dispensary staff

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 use 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. 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/use 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!

Nick Headshot

Nick Rudy

Nick is a content writer, creator and editor in the cannabis industry. He helps cannabis retailers start, grow and expand their dispensary businesses. On the weekends, Nick enjoys 1906 Chill drops and long walks on the beach with his Dalmatian, Lady. Connect with Nick on Linkedin.

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