San Francisco has blazed another trail in the legal marijuana movement. The city that opened the nation’s first public marijuana dispensary, the home of the author of the first-ever statewide medical-marijuana legalization, and the birthplace of the Summer of Love just hosted the Retail Cannabis Hiring Fair — the first cannabis job fair held inside City Hall.
“I think it is likely the first time in the United States that a city government has hosted a hiring event for the cannabis industry,” says Katherine Daniel, acting director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) workforce division. “Certainly, [it’s] the first time one has brought such an event into City Hall.”
Last week’s Retail Cannabis Hiring Fair drew more than 200 jobseekers to meet with 20 cannabis businesses, two marijuana-offense legal-expungement services, and several workforce service providers like Goodwill. And a few lucky applicants planted the seeds of their new cannabis careers there that afternoon.
“We heard about on-the-spot hires at the event,” Daniel tells SF Weekly.
This job fair wasn’t just hiring budtenders (many of whom now prefer the title “Patient Consultant”). Dispensaries, growers, and labs hired delivery drivers and front desk staff, plus more specialized positions like security guards, social media analysts, and — of course — experienced trimmers.
Trimmers, too, have a new professional job title. State Flower Cannabis’ Kevin Clark calls them “processing staff.”
“They’ll be trimming, they’ll be working with our preroll department, they’ll be packaging prerolls, and packaging up flower into eighth jars and gram jars,” Clark said of the candidates he’s hiring.
“It’s 40 hours a week, full-time, competitive pay benefits, all of that,” he says. “We’re hiring a lot of people.”
Three on-duty San Francisco Sheriff’s deputies watched over the fair, as they probably would be for any public event held in the North Light Court. But the irony of their presence was not lost on industry veterans.
“This is something they would have arrested you for years ago,” Apothecarium licensing and compliance manager Ynez Carrasco said from that dispensary’s hiring booth.
Kidding aside, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors did demand that communities of color and people with previous marijuana convictions get economic and hiring priorities in our city’s cannabis laws. These “equity program” rules did delay San Francisco’s recreational marijuana sales by six days at the beginning of the year, but they should pay off for the next generation of the local industry innovators.
“Thursday’s hiring event was an effort to make sure that these jobseekers had an opportunity to connect to the jobs available in the industry now,” says OEWD director Daniel.
A few advocacy groups are also involved in that effort, like the nonprofit Success Center San Francisco that provides educational and job opportunities to youth and young adults in detention or foster-care systems.
“We’re here to support this city’s efforts ensuring there’s equity among San Francisco residents in the new budding cannabis industry,” Success Center San Francisco Executive Director Liz Jackson-Simpson tells SF Weekly.
And legal marijuana is booming in San Francisco, in some ways that the industry expected, and other ways it did not. Dispensaries figured they’d sell more pot in the recreational-use era. But they hadn’t anticipated lines down the block every Saturday and Sunday, nor how much their customer base would transition to tourists less familiar with cannabis.
“The frontier that we’re in is a whole new recreational type of service. With that comes a whole new customer service,” says Green Door SF Director of Operations A.G. Melendez. “Being in the medical dispensary business for more than 15 years, you need to retrain your existing core veteran group to have better customer service for that recreational tourist coming through the door, rather than that medical patient.”
There was, of course, no cannabis to be found at the Retail Cannabis Hiring Fair. City Hall security guards and entrance scanners saw to that, since you can’t legally bring marijuana into a government building. (Though interestingly, some dispensaries had empty jars and display rack containers for on-site training purposes.)
But this genuinely only-in-San-Francisco event showed how the grass is greener here and old rules apply a little differently. You still can’t fight city hall — but you can light city hall up with opportunities for young San Franciscans who someday might laugh all the way to the dank.
See more of SF Weekly‘s 420 issue:
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