Half of the states across the country have or will raise the minimum wage for hourly workers this year, but many cannabis companies, including retailers, are unlikely to have much of an impact.
That’s because most say they are already paying their employees above the minimum wage set by the states in which they operate.
In addition, this remuneration is added to attractive service packages.
Such compensation packages are in contrast to mainstream small businesses who are concerned about the impact of a raise given the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Higher wages and benefits appear to have become the norm in the cannabis industry, where it is important to keep knowledgeable employees like Budtender serving marijuana customers.
According to the 2020 Cannabis Industry Salary Guide published by Vangst, a Denver-based cannabis recruitment company, budtenders make an average of $ 15 an hour nationwide.
Of the companies surveyed, 90% offer some type of benefit package that often includes health insurance, paid time off, a 401 (k) plan, or company equity.
Some also throw in a cell phone and commuter allowances.
“It’s right and competitive to attract great talent,” said Karson Humiston, Founder and CEO of Vangst. “When you run a business, you have to figure out how to pay your employees a decent wage.
“In general, we believe that as an employee, you should make enough money 40 hours a week to lead a decent life.”
California at the top
California has the highest minimum wage of any state: $ 14 an hour, although this applies to companies with 26 or more employees.
According to Wolters Kluwer, an information services company headquartered in Philadelphia and the Netherlands, the Californian city of Emeryville had the highest minimum wage in the country on Jan. 1 at $ 16.84 an hour, followed by Seattle at $ 16.69.
With most cannabis companies already paying above the minimum wage, they don’t need to include minimum wage increases in their plans for 2021, said Nichole Upshaw, executive vice president of human resources at Jushi Holdings, a Boca Raton, Florida-based multistate operator and owner of licenses for the Retailing, growing and processing cannabis.
“Cannabis got it right from the start,” said Upshaw. “Other industries ask, ‘How deep can we go? What do we have to pay? ‘
“Cannabis asks the question, ‘What can we pay for?’ We’re already there and don’t have to incorporate it into our plan. “
Jushi, which has offered early on to employees who interact with the risk of public risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, faces varying minimum wage increases in most of the five states it operates in: California, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Neither of these states will hit the $ 15 an hour minimum that President Joe Biden has for all federal government employees this year, but they are heading in that direction.
As the minimum wage increases in these states, Jushi is considering raising wages that are commensurate with those increases.
Mainstream retailers see $ 15
Mainstream retail companies have also taken note of the $ 15 minimum wage. In June last year, Target announced that it would raise the starting wage for all US employees to $ 15 an hour.
In September, Walmart announced that 165,000 employees would receive a raise. Many saw their hourly wages rise from $ 11 to $ 15 or more.
Upshaw believes that it is critical that cannabis companies are competitive with these companies.
“Everyone is making this move toward $ 15 an hour,” she added. “People were starting to realize that they had to get closer to that.”
In Michigan, where the minimum hourly wage is $ 9.65, Gage Cannabis from Troy pays no less than $ 13 an hour, and most employees at the vertically integrated company make $ 16-18 an hour, company president said Fabian Monaco.
“The majority of our employees are already above that amount, but in order to stay competitive we will likely see a decent pay increase,” said Monaco.
“We will evaluate that when the time comes. It’s a tough job, especially in a retail store. “
In addition to paying above the minimum wage, Gage is offering most hourly employees a $ 75 bonus every other week for their work during the pandemic.
Gage, which employs nearly 300 people, expects its workforce to double by the end of the year as more pharmacies open.
The company, which currently has six retail locations, expects it will have 20 total by the end of 2021.
Gage employs up to 25 people at each of the company’s retail locations, currently only offering roadside pickup.
A career versus a job
The compensation packages at Phoenix-based Tilt Holdings, which has a portfolio of cannabis companies that provide technology, hardware, cultivation, and manufacturing, are designed to encourage employees to choose the cannabis industry as a career rather than just a job, said Gary Santo. the president of the company.
Tilt pays above the minimum wage in every state it operates. It also provides health and life insurance, as well as disability benefits, for employees who work at least 30 hours a week.
The company, which employs around 300 people, offers extensive training and helps employees develop their careers. There is also a stock option program.
“We love it when our people invest in us,” said Santo. “The easiest way to make them act like an owner is to have them as an owner.”
In Oregon, the minimum wage varies depending on the part of the state where a business is located. Therefore, it’s difficult to set a standard rate for all employees when a cannabis retailer has stores in multiple locations, said Kevin Hogan, co-founder and president of Bend-Based Oregrown.
The minimum wage in Bend and Cannon Beach, where two of Oregrown’s stores are located, is currently $ 12 an hour and is set to rise to $ 12.75 on July 1. It’s $ 13.25 in Portland, where the company has a third store, and the Portland metropolitan area is set to rise to $ 14 on July 1.
However, Oregrown pays well above the minimum wage, with some of its budget tenders making more than $ 25 an hour.
Hogan estimates that about a third of Oregrown’s employees participate in the company’s share ownership program and health insurance is offered to some hourly employees.
The company is considering including all employees in its health insurance and offering paid time off.
“The experience is great for us, so we make sure we have an incentive program that attracts the best salespeople in the state,” said Hogan.