Weekly Alibi: What service does your company provide exactly?
We provide staffing for the license and ancillary businesses in the medical cannabis industry. And we also help the hemp companies. There are a lot of licensed hemp companies that are now up and coming. We help them to find talent, we do HR consultation and then we develop the workforce. So before we even place anybody, we help to train and educate the people that we’re placing and on a bigger scale, we provide event training and networking. Overall I feel like we are the go-to for consumer and workforce education around cannabis here in New Mexico, because our education mirrors the regulations and the compliance education is done at the state level. And then the staffing needs are just black and white: We have a placement service that we offer. I’ve likened this to what they’re doing in Colorado. Here in New Mexico, we failed to put a process in place, so I jumped in there.
What sort of state requirements are there for working in this field, if any?
If you’re going to be working for a licensed business—that means a licensed nonprofit producer, a manufacturer, a courier, or a lab—you go through some on-boarding requirements that are very general. You have to have a HIPPA certificate that’s good for a year, so you renew that yearly as a requirement. And if you’re a new manufacturer, you have to have your food handler’s safety, or if you’re in the grow or doing any packaging, or anything like that.
So those are the two certificates that will be part of your on-boarding license to get a MCP license along with the certificate on the license application. It should have your federal and state background checks done, you have to provide stuff like your social security number, your address here—you have to have residency here. You have to have a clean background with no felony.
On the yearly compliance courses that are needed: Under the policies and procedures that the state has issued under the New Mexico administrative code for these companies, they are required to provide compliance training for their employees. And that entails providing a Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act class, an ethics class, a research and development class, that HIPPA class is in there, a safety and security class—and then I go an extra step and I provide a New Mexico medical cannabis program class that gives them the baseline. And that’s like a prerequisite or a jumping-off point for all of the other classes that the state wants them to have.
I feel like occupational safety and health is just now becoming involved. The training is important because these people are actually working with the medicine that then is translated to the patients. So in order to mitigate risk with a controlled substance in our state, education should come first. I feel like it’s important for the businesses to have access to that education. And they haven’t been able to set that up for themselves, so I felt the need to set up workforce development.
It provides opportunities. Everybody that goes through my system is vetted properly, and I feel like I’m providing talent that is educated and dedicated—
Are you seeing a higher demand for qualified employees as the number of patients enrolled in the program increases?
Yes. In fact I’m headed to Las Cruces this week to talk to Pecos Valley Pharmaceuticals because they’re on the move. These companies want to help more patients by hiring more employees, but they want to make sure that everybody is compliant across the board. So they need help getting that training in their hands.
Two months ago, before our career fair, we had 78 applications coming into our company a month on average. Now we have over 160 coming in for training and employment referrals per month. And that’s just my company. These other companies out there are getting hit with applications, too.
What sort of people are you trying to attract to the field?
I feel like our best candidates for the industry—and even entrepreneurs who are looking to create businesses in this field—should have a baseline [knowledge] of marijuana advocacy or activism. And that just means a belief system or a philosophy or a story around how or why they believe in marijuana and what it’s done for their lives or the lives of someone they know. That goes a lot further than somebody who just wants a paying job or to get into the field because they want to be cool. From there it’s people who are willing to get their foot in the door with these small start-ups and stomach constantly shifting regulations. Those two are key: advocacy and the willingness to help build the field.