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Article 12  Pre-Employment THC Screening & Beyond - Careers in Cannabis with James Yagielo of HempStaff

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In this episode recorded on 03/02/2021, Ashley Manning talked to James Yagielo, CEO of HempStaff, the industry leader in medical marijuana recruiting and dispensary training. Many might think that because they're going to have a career in cannabis, pre-employment drug screening ends. That's not always the case, and screening has certainly become an issue in many states even outside of the cannabis industry. James brings a little clarity on this topic and discusses how he has helped place thousands of employees in hemp and cannabis jobs.

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On Careers in Cannabis, talks with staffing agencies and cannabis companies to explore employment and career opportunities in the burgeoning cannabis industry. To reach the show:

Audio Transcription:

Ashley: Hey everyone for I'm Ashley Manning and this is Careers in Cannabis. On this show we sit down with staffing agencies, cannabis companies and other industry professionals to discuss employment opportunities in the burgeoning cannabis industry. Many might think that because they're going to have a career in cannabis that drug testing ends but that's not always the case and drug testing has certainly become an issue in many states even outside of the cannabis industry. So I wanted to get a little clarity on this topic from today's guest who has helped place thousands of employees in hemp and cannabis jobs and over a couple dozen states. Luckily all of their clients that drug test make an exception for THC for those with a medical marijuana card. In this episode we talk to James Yagielo, CEO of HempStaff the industry leader in medical marijuana recruiting and dispensary training. Welcome to the show James. 

James: Thank you. Thanks for having me here. 

Ashley: It's good to revisit this conversation with you so let's start for those who didn't catch your interview last time. Let's start with a little bit about who HempStaff is and where you guys started. 

James: Sure, HempStaff we have been in business since 2014 doing recruiting and training in both the hemp and cannabis Industries. We are florida-based, but we do nationwide recruiting and training and we have our recruiters and business developers nationwide. It started with me and my wife but both have recruiting backgrounds and in 2014 we saw the cannabis industry as the next big industry, so I switched from IT which was the big industry 20 years ago to what I think is the new IT of cannabis.

Ashley: I agree, the new Silicon Valley of cannabis for sure. So there's been a trending topic that I've been wanting to discuss with a recruiter and that's the reason for me reaching out to you. I heard it on Clubhouse, it's going out in traditional news that is the trending topic about pre-employment drug testing. And the reason I use quotes is because I don't consider THC a drug and I wish they would exclude that from the verbiage. So what's the deal with pre-employment testing when you're working in the cannabis industry. 

James: Yeah, that is there's certainly a conundrum to say the least.  It's definitely different state by state some states like Maryland extra require drug testing as a state law. So, you know that's the strictest which is the only one I can think of offhand that requires it. Others kind of a company policy whether they do or not. Now,I can't say for our clients at least the ones that drug test if they drug test and you have a medical marijuana card they allow you to test positive for THC. We haven't actually had any clients in recreational states drug test so that would be a little more of a gray area. I don't know how they would work around that but the ones we have in medical states and they do drug test but if you have your medical card THC isn't an issue at all.

Ashley: Okay, that makes sense. It seems that if you're able to do other legal things like consume alcohol that would be why is cannabis excluded when it's legal in those recreational states. So I know counseling just just had a bill put out today. Not sure if it'll pass about removing past medical cannabis user in recreational use because it's legal. We'll see where that goes. My fingers are crossed because it doesn't make sense. It seems unfair. 

James: Yeah and there are many lawsuits that have been warned against companies like Amazon and Walmart where they fired someone for medical use of marijuana and they had a legitimate medical card and they won a settlement in court. So that's why a lot of people are even outside of cannabis industry they're starting to allow people with medical marijuana cards to test positive for THC.

Ashley: That's great. That's great news that it's moving forward. Do you think it's a liability issue? Maybe the insurance carrier says they have risk mitigation insurance for their employees. They have to take a drug test. 

James: Yeah a lot of times it is your larger corporation's drug test and it is because they get a discount under workman's comp a lot of times. So that's unfortunately the really the driving factor of drug testing in any industry in the country. It's due to those discounts that insurance at workman's comp companies are given people because they figure if they drug test there will be less accidents at work. It really goes back to the factory days of not being impaired while you work with machinery. Unfortunately, it kind of floated over to the white collar jobs as well.

Ashley: I mean, I can totally understand the the liability aspect you work with machines that could cut off your fingers and whether you are medicating with cannabis medically or you're taking your pain medication either way your I don't want to say it because it's not a proven fact that cannabis is an impairment but the there's an impairment in we'll just ignore what I was going to say. There is some form of impairment.

James: You should be using Vicodin even as it's prescribed to you on those same machines, so it's similar to that effect is the way we look at it.

Ashley: Well, thanks giving us a little bit of clarity on that because it's definitely going around and it's kind of confusing if you want to work in cannabis and have a career and your getting tested for something you're working for just doesn't make sense. So let's get into the interview portion of what we want to talk about in your last interview. You said that the hemp industry is going to surpass the cannabis industry and I know that since that interview the USDA published their final role for production of hemp which takes place next week. Actually March 22nd, so that'll be right when this interview goes out. Is that going to open up more doors for hemp processors and career opportunities in hemp or is there more work to be done. 

James: Slowly, it will slowly. Well, I mean the biggest bottleneck with hemp is the factories as I stated before. Now,there are I believe ten in all of North America that's it and each one can only process around I would say six million pounds or so a month. So while it sounds like a lot there's a lot more that grown right now and they were also finding the logistics of moving hemp to keep hemp fresh enough for the processing of the stalks and industrial. You can't really ship at long distances in semi trucks that aren't climate controlled because it will start to go bad really quickly. So without refrigeration control you're looking at only about a hundred mile radius that they can really get the hemp to a factory before some degradation starts. So there's a lot of logistics to work out with hemp. It's going to dwarf the cannabis industry and might take 10 years to get there but definitely the passage that bill will help open up more doors and I saw there is talk about maybe raising the THC level of hemp as well. Well, which may help with some of the restrictions growers are seeing also. 

Ashley: Very exciting news about that 1% again fingers are crossed I think that is phenomenal progress for us overall. Watch out cannabis industry! On that note we have listeners that range in all different experience levels, entry levels and not even touch the cannabis industry. So for those entry people who are curious about having a In cannabis or hemp can you explain the difference in the hemp industry versus the cannabis industry? 

James: Sure, well first for those who don't know hemp right now has to be .03% THC or less. So that's the big battling factor is if someone's half percent THC on their hemp farm it gets thrown away. So right now the cannabis industry is medical and recreational where the hemp industry is CBD or industrial processing products like clothing and paper and what not. The cannabis industry on one side is extremely regulated. You're always going to have to have background checks get license through the state where the hemp industry those people maybe don't have clean of a background can still get a job working in a CBD store or farm because they don't have the same restrictions at the state level of getting badged to work in that industry. So the cannabis industry a lot of people like because that's where the THC and other cannabinoids are where hemp Industries more farming and factory work but a lot looser restrictions. So those are really the two main differences between those industries.

Ashley: Great synopsis, very digestible that makes sense. While we're speaking about the hemp industry. It's getting very close to the crops being put in the ground. So what are some current hemp opportunities? I would assume there should be quite a lot.

James: Absolutely. I mean once it is put in the ground you have farm opportunities first and foremost. They need people to work on those farms as it gets later in the year. They look for more people because you need more people to harvest it than you do the plant. So definitely as the  season goes on hemp jobs get more and more popular. Now a lot of people this year, it's going to be iffy to see if as many people grow hemp this year than the previous two years. Two years ago there was a lot of hemp that wasn't used, just so last year there was a pullback even before Covid of the number of hemp farmers. Now last year a lot more states did get legalized Hemp. So it's going to be interesting to see what the final numbers are this year and if it goes back to 2019 numbers or if it still decreases a little as people realize the CBD market is pretty saturated. And as I said the industrial market isn't quite mature enough yet.

Ashley: Yeah agree with you on that. So when you say seasons and what are those seasons? So someone's listening to this interview right now when can they anticipate applying for a job in the hemp industry? 

James: Yeah me right now, hemp people are hiring their master growers to get their seeds in the ground and get the process going one thing. I forgot to mention testing labs in hemp is huge. Everybody has to test to make sure they aren't over that .03% THC level. So a lot of people with chemistry or science degrees are moving into the hemp industry as well. So that's another aspect of a whole different type of career move that people are making is the scientists in hemp. Back to the grow season, right now they're planting and as it goes they'll be hiring more farmers in a couple months once the seeds pop up to do the testing ph testing, the watering other menial tasks around the farm and then in late fall that's when you really get the harvesting and they need and dozens more people because they have to do the harvesting if they're doing CBD flower, they may need trimming, if they're doing processing, they're going to need lab extractor technicians. So there's a lot of different things that could happen and all that season changes in a state like Florida. It's year round so they could plant in January, maybe harvest in June and then it's a little hot depending on where they are in Florida, maybe plant again September and harvest again in January for the next crop goes in. So the southern states are going to see a little bit different seasons rather than the northern or western states.

Ashley: Makes sense and to touch also on the note of chemists working in lab testing, lab testing that's hemp and cannabis industry and according to the recent salary guides those who are working in the labs are getting paid much higher salaries than the average would in a traditional lab as well. 

James: Absolutely, that's it. Yeah, I mean we were seeing salaries 140-220 a year for a lab director with a PhD. 

Ashley: Wow, that's incredible with benefits as well. 

James: Yes, absolutely.

Ashley: Because I know it's hit or miss in job opportunities for there to be a benefits package or not. Just as we mature they're going to come about but not always.

James: Sure the testing lab seems to offer benefits more because they tend to have more of a other industry plan if you will. A lot of these testing companies we're testing for other products, they were testing organic products or testing different metal products or whatever. So they kind of use your come from another industry. So they already have their benefit plans and insurance set from the other industry they were in and they're just translating it to the cannabis or hemp industry.

Ashley: Very true unlike the manufacturing side of things and distribution.

James: Right, cultivation manufacturing, there's people just coming from everywhere.

Ashley: They're still sitting on buckets trimming. So what are some current hot jobs in the cannabis industry specifically that you're seeing. I know you guys hire all the time, year around but what's really hot right now for cannabis.

James: In the cannabis industry it's still a master extractors. Everyone's looking for a cheaper way, a better way or a new type of cannabinoid if you will. So that's always the most sought-after is really good master extractors. After that, we're actually starting to get a lot of dispensary manager positions in. It seems a lot of these places are expanding very quickly and used to take them a little while to expand and an assistant manager moves up to the manager of the new store but when they're expanding and opening three four stores at once, they don't have enough internal employees to take over the managerial duties. So in states that are expanding quickly like Arizona right now we're starting to see more dispensary manager jobs because they're just growing quicker than they can train internal employees.

Ashley: Makes sense, scaling, its growth. It's needed in any industry. New Jersey just legalized I know it's not active just yet, but I would assume operations need to begin. Is that a hot market for you guys or is it gonna be slow? 

James: It's still a little too early, you know,we have gotten reached out by some current licensees. Obviously doing medical now will be the first to be involved in a recreational. It still looks like it's probably August before applications are actually out use you want to applications or out that's when the rush starts ever one contact us to see how we can help them find the right employees some of them use us as their staffing partner on their application to try to boost their application a little bit. So really it's after the applications are released that we get the big rush, but like I said some of the current licenses are starting to let us know that they do plan to apply. But once again, they probably won't be hiring until fall.

Ashley: Yeah you then you are going to have your hands full between harvest and all these new states coming on board.

James: Yeah, we expect the last quarter 2021 to be a very big one job wise.

Ashley: Well, I'll note to pick up the phone and give you a call and we'll get you back on the show to talk about some of those opportunities and help spread that message for you. 

James: Sounds like a plan. 

Ashley: So another topic you had previously talked about in your last interview and I wanted to follow up on, this topic was regarding people who were mid degree, leaving their mid degree probably because of the pandemic and not being able to be in school. Have you noticed them not actually returning back to finish their degree because they like the cannabis industry so much or you might not even have that answer.

James: Yeah, I mean fortunately a lot of candidates don't really keep in touch with us. We get them a job and they go on to their job and everything's good and they forget about us, but they aren't looking for a job they don't really need us I guess. But the ones we have kept in touch with are keeping their cannabis jobs. They realize this is a career that has a lot of potential some of them are going back to school at night or if they're working part time they're working around their cannabis schedule to go back to go but I haven't heard of anyone that went into the cannabis industry and decided this isn’t a really for me and I'm going to go back to college instead. I think if anything they're doing both I don't think anyone, decided that the cannabis industry doesn't have an upside of this point.

Ashley: That is fantastic news. I honestly got the chills just because it excites me to know that people were really getting the message. That means us as an industry, we're doing a really good job at ending that stigma and giving people what they need so that's part of my personal mission and professional mission so that's great. What would be some big brother advice? You would give someone who is applying to cannabis and they've never done it. They just know that there's an opportunity and that they fit in somewhere in the space but there's some reality checks too though that misconceptions people have about working in the cannabis industry.

James: Sure, first thing I always tell people is think of what you're good at and what you have experienced and how it can apply to the cannabis industry because of all types of jobs. If you're an accountant now go be an accountant in the cannabis industry. You don’t have to start as an entry-level grower, you have the accounting skills. Same thing with things like an inventory or sales or marketing. So a lot of people just get stuck in the grower or budtender kind of jobs but there's a whole industry. So there're so many jobs that most likely you have a skill that can be applied there if you're younger and say you don't have those skills. We recommend obtaining those skills,  you want to be a grower. We know a couple people that went out and got jobs at the local nursery growing roses and then when the cultivation job came up, they had that nursery experience and very easily landed an entry-level cultivation job because no one else had that nursery experience. Same thing with a budtender, go work at Macy's for a couple months and you get a little bit of retail under your belt and that's what they're looking for with that that you know how to work with customers, run the cash register, you know that kind of thing. So look at what your experience is. If you don't have it look at what you want to do and get experience outside the cannabis industry to boost your resume. Now as for expectations now, if you are IT guy making a hundred grand a year you aren't going to find that in the cannabis industry, that's a very rare job. So there are jobs that just aren't going to translate, you know. I get that question all the time. I make you know $70,000 now as an electrician. What can I do in a cannabis industry? Maybe if you got lucky and became an electrician for someone to build grow rooms, you might be able to make that but there's probably five of those jobs in the whole industry. So you know while I say look at what you have done in the past. You also have to really think about your experience, your salary and how that will translate to the cannabis industrial hemp industry as well.

Ashley: Perfect. Great big brother advice. Last question I have for you is what is the most important detail to include on a resume and there's a there's a reason I'm asking this question because there's different responses and I think people are getting excited about the career opportunities in cannabis and they're just thinking here's my resume and therefore forgetting some important details.

James: Yeah, I mean that first paragraph, the objective. That has really gotten muddled over the years, back when I was in college near teacher resumes was always like make your objective to obtain a job in the cannabis industry blah blah. Don't do that anymore. That should now be a summary of yourself. That's the first thing they're reading so the first thing you want that person to know about you should be a net summary and also personalize it. Put the company name in there, put the position in there so they know you did that resume specifically for them. That really does go a long way because so many people just send out the same resume over and over and over. Just taking the time to replace two words makes a big difference to the employer and thirdly don't worry too much about putting your photo up there or making it look super super pretty with all these different colors and stuff content is more important than appearance in a resume. We've given some resumes that are not very good and the person's very qualified and they get looked over and we've given some where the person was just semi qualified but really nailed the resume and they get the interview. So it really is about content 

Ashley: Great that for our listeners, you got to listen to the headhunter, the recruiter who is looking at these resumes and handing them off. You're the best person to ask, you're the gatekeeper essentially.. 

James: Exactly if you don’t get through us, you don't get to the client. 

Ashley: I think with the growth of the industry with hemp and cannabis they're utilizing staffing services a lot more than their own word-of-mouth. We're finding out very easily that you know word of mouth and referrals don't necessarily workout. Although you want to help people but that's what the cannabis industry has been built upon is how can we help you? And how can they help me and let's work together but as we grow and we are going to have to bring that a little bit more together. 

James: Especially with two or three hundred resumes a job,you know, we're getting bigger companies that have three for HR people coming to us because they have ten openings. They're getting two thousand resumes a day even with a team of four they can't go through them in a fashion that they would like to to find the diamonds in the rough so they say. 

Ashley: Or the unicorns you are looking for those special cannabinoid extractors. 

James: Yeah those happened a lot in this industry, unicorns. 

Ashley: All right, if you're a unicorn you need to apply to HempStaff. 

James: Absolutely we're looking for them all the time. 

Ashley: Final final question for you is how can people reach Hemp Staff? How can you guys be reached to look at open job opportunities?

James: Sure. Our main website has all our information there, you can register and upload your resume to be a candidate with us. We have our job openings listed. We have our training classes listed. If you're a client looking for employees, you can fill out a form for us to contact you and start the process there as well. We have a couple other websites is our job board of public job openings we currently have, it’s updated in real time. So we recommend people check that daily and see if there's any jobs in their area and is our training website. We do all of our training virtually now over Zoom. We don't necessarily have to be in your area like we used to have to be and of course we're on all social media Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram under HempStaff you can find us at all those.

Ashley: Awesome. Well, this has been a great interview. If there's nothing you want to leave off any message or anything then we will take off for the day. 

James: Yeah, absolutely. It's been great. I enjoyed it and 2021 is a great year for cannabis and hemp.  

Ashley: Awesome. Well, we'll chat with you soon. Thank you so much James. Bye 

James: Absolutely, thank you. Bye bye.. 

Ashley: My thanks again to James Yagielo for being my guest on today's episode. You can follow our series careers in cannabis as well as more great shows like this one at If you are a member of the cannabis community and you have a story you want to share with us please reach out. You can reach the show by emailing Please take a second to subscribe to the podcast and write a review. It really helps others to find the show. You can also join in the discussion with industry insiders by visiting For I'm Ashley Manning. Thank you for listening and be well.

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