As the economy roars back from the COVID recession, many industries are struggling with a serious shortage of qualified workers. The cannabis industry is no exception. One of the bright lights during the pandemic economy, the US cannabis industry posted record sales and employment numbers in 2020. But it will be hard to maintain that kind of growth if cannabis companies can’t find enough workers to keep pace with demand. Employers are struggling to fill all kinds of positions, from entry-level delivery drivers and budtenders to field sales reps and experienced managers.
To help address this labor shortage while promoting racial justice, two Black-owned companies—40 Tons and Brand Resumes—are organizing a cannabis career fair. The event, titled “Canna Get a 2nd Chance,” takes place at City Hall in Hawthorne, California on Thursday, September 2 at 2:00 PM. Attendance is free. Job seekers can register here. Employers interested in participating can contact the organizers via the main event website at https://cannabishiringfairs.com.
For Anthony Alegrete, Operations Director at 40 Tons, that “2nd chance” is personal. A former drug war POW himself, Alegrete and his wife Loriel (40 Tons’ CEO) co-founded the premium cannabis and streetwear brand last year as a social enterprise, a for-profit business with a mission to support advocacy for the release of federal marijuana prisoners. The name “40 tons” is a reference to the 40,000 federal prisoners (as of 2018) held for nonviolent marijuana offences, as well as the amount of weed that For Anthony Alegrete, Operations Director at 40 Tons, that “2nd chance” is personal. A former drug war POW himself, Alegrete and his wife Loriel (40 Tons’ CEO) co-founded the premium cannabis and streetwear brand last year as a social enterprise, a for-profit business with a mission to support advocacy for the release of federal marijuana prisoners. The name “40 tons” is a reference to the 40,000 federal prisoners (as of 2018) held for nonviolent marijuana offences, as well as the amount of weed that Anthony’s best friend, Corvain Cooper, was ultimately charged with distributing. (Read the fascinating and harrowing story of how their activism led to a presidential pardon for Cooper.)
Not Your Average Job Fair
“Canna Get a 2nd Chance” is not your average job fair. As the name suggests, the event is part of a larger effort to not only find qualified employees, but to actively promote social equity in the cannabis industry by targeting recruitment efforts to Black and Brown communities.
In addition to the standard career fair offerings—like opportunities to hear from a panel of industry leaders and meet with career coaches and hiring managers from a variety of employers—the event will offer an “expungement clinic”—a team of lawyers on-site to assist attendees with prior cannabis convictions in the process clearing their records. And to promote further professional development in the industry, the organizers will also award two attendees with scholarships to Oaksterdam University.
According to the event website, the unemployment rate for job seekers with criminal records is 30%, and returning citizens are 70% more likely to be re-arrested if they can’t find a job.
“We wanted to figure out a way we could have a direct impact and bring true restorative justice to our community,” says Alegrete. “How do you do that? By education and providing opportunity. We felt by doing a cannabis career fair we could accomplish both.” So Alegrete teamed up with his friend Brandon Mitchell, founder of Brand Resumes, to make this event a reality.
“Gainful employment is at the forefront of change,” says Mitchell. “The cannabis career fair was created to provide job seekers with the opportunity to meet companies, get the exposure they need, and build meaningful relationships that will lead to employment.”
The organizers expect ten to fifteen employers and at least 150 job seekers to attend the September 2 event.
First California. Then the Entire US
Canna Get A 2nd Chance is just the first of what Alegrete and Mitchell hope will become a nationwide series of cannabis career fairs. “Our plan is to show proof of concept with this first one, and scale across the country,” Alegrete explains. After that, they plan “to hit all major cities in California, and then take it to the East Coast in New Jersey and New York. Once we have mastered it, we will take it to all states that are cannabis compliant.”
Mitchell hopes to establish Brand Resumes, a New York-based company, as the dominant player in cannabis staffing. “Soon our brand will be synonymous with cannabis hiring to ensure job seekers can get the necessary help they need. Our goal is to be trusted partners with many cannabis companies across all verticals to assist with staffing and recruiting, whether it be hiring for events or executive placement.”