As marijuana legalization continues to grow across the U.S., human resource professionals must figure out how to best adapt to new strict regulations that vary distinctly state-by-state. Many consider these HR professionals who are shifting into pot legalization to be those who are shaping the future of HR practices in the marijuana industry. Keegan Peterson, founder and CEO of Denver’s Wurk, a management software provider that specializes in recreational marijuana said, “You can’t take a blueprint from the retail industry and graft it onto the cannabis industry.” Wurk’s platform intends to help dispensaries become successful by engraining Colorado’s marijuana regulations into the software platform in order to reduce compliance responsibility for dispensary HR professionals. Peterson stresses the importance of compliance, highlighting it as a critical factor to success in the legal marijuana business. “How do you hire people correctly? How to make sure you’re paying them correctly? Compliance is at the forefront of this industry,” he says. “The companies that put it at the front of their business are growing.”

However, many companies are hitting a wall when it comes to finding the right employees for dispensary jobs. Some applicants are being rejected because of thorough background checks that would typically not affect employment in a more conventional line of work, and others are unemployable simply because they do not meet a series of state-mandated prerequisites necessary for employment in a dispensary setting. Some dispensary hiring managers have even received “interesting résumés that have people admitting they’ve committed felonies or weren’t caught committing felonies,” said Evan Nison, founder and owner of NisonCo., a public relations firm devoted to the pot industry. Situations like these often result in dispensary owners being unable to hire those with previous experience growing and selling marijuana.

Another major issue facing dispensaries comes in the form of payroll challenges, which is due to the fact that marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 drug, placing it on the same tier as substances like heroin and LSD. Even though eight states and Washington D.C. have legalized weed, the federal government still views it as highly illegal. This prevents banks from working with dispensaries, although restrictions are slowly being lifted. Workers are often paid in cash, which can be dangerous for these dispensaries and their employees. Entrepreneurs like Peterson are now attempting to create products which would allow banks and credit unions to administer electronic payroll alternatives that would allow dispensaries to pay employees through means such as direct deposit. Peterson believes that the solution to dispensary payroll lies in strict compliance direction and the ability to “communicate changing regulations clearly and automatically” to customers.

While legal marijuana is still a highly contentious issue, HR professionals can provide various benefits to the industry through compliance regulation. “There’s a real opportunity for the HR world to take part in this industry,” said Peterson. “People and workforce management are at the forefront of this industry and it wouldn’t happen without that.”

StaffScapes is Denver’s top PEO, assisting business with offerings like payroll services, HR administration, and benefits since 1996. If you need support with HR services, contact StaffScapes today.