A Growing Economy
Mar 12, 2019 08:09PM
● By Nora Mounce
California’s legal cannabis industry continues to make headlines up and down the Golden State. While the passage of Prop 64 unleashed major changes for cultivators, the legal industry has quickly expanded into traditional sectors of the economy, creating a host of new opportunities for job seekers in accounting, legal services, and human resources. At the national level, Zip Recruiter reports the cannabis industry is adding jobs at a rate that outpaces both tech and healthcare. According to ZipRecruiter data, the total number of cannabis industry job posts increased by 445 percent in 2017, compared to an increase of just 18 percent one year prior.
In the Emerald Triangle, the black market has dominated the local economy for decades; even disparate businesses have difficulty estimating how much of their profit revenue can be tracked back to cannabis dollars. Given the huge sphere of economic influence, fears continue to swirl that legalization will eventually lead to a devastating fallout for rural Emerald Triangle communities dependent on cash. Though government regulations bring huge environmental benefits, the roughly 30 percent state tax rate is setting up traditional farmers for a hard go. Armed with legitimate bank accounts and social media fluency, new investors have jumped into the legal industry, renting commercial buildings in urban zones and industrial parks across California. Suddenly, the geographic virtues that made Humboldt an ideal location to covertly grow marijuana have become major hurdles for logistics and distribution.
In the Humboldt County seat of Eureka, city officials are well aware of the challenges facing the region’s world-reknowned ag industry. In response, they have hit the ground running. Since 2017, the city has granted over a hundred licenses for cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and retail, representing 60 unique businesses.
“Since we started processing licensees, cannabis has brought in $450,000 to the city,” says Lane Millar, Eureka’s deputy director of development services. “The industry is more than paying for itself.”
Typically, Millar’s office doesn’t track job growth, but given the swift and radical changes in the cannabis industry, city officials are working to understand the needs of the community. Millar explains that Eureka wants to partner with local cannabis businesses in order to generate local revenue and industry that benefits everyone. “We want to showcase Eureka as a good place to do business throughout California,” says Millar. Based on city data, Millar projects that cannabis licenses alone will bring more revenue to Eureka in 2019 than all non-cannabis business licenses combined. “That’s pretty significant and why we want to support the cultivation community,” says Millar. Overall, he estimates that somewhere between 150 to 300 new jobs have been created in Eureka thanks to cannabis industry growth.
Papa & Barkley is a Eureka-based cannabis company that produces extracts, topicals, and tinctures designed for relief from everyday aches and pains. Founded in 2015 by Adam Grossman and Guy Rocourt, Papa & Barkley has earned both local and national accolades for setting high standards in the new cannabis industry. “We work with local farmers with generations of experience growing this amazing flower in the richest possible natural conditions,” explains Grossman. “We feel privileged to be in Eureka and try hard to represent Humboldt’s unique quality of life.”
As a leading cannabis company in the legal era, Papa & Barkley know all eyes are watching especially in Humboldt County. Senior Project Manager Michael Kraft explains that Papa & Barkley is excited about providing more jobs for locals–and good ones, too. “As we grow, our equipment and processes will become more sophisticated,” says Kraft. “We’ll also need to hire employees that already have experience with these new and improved tools. All of this means our pay scales will likely rise.” Papa & Barkley made its first hire in late 2016 and now employs over 70 people. As Papa & Barkley expands into its new manufacturing facility on the southern edge of Eureka, Kraft projects the company will continue to grow its workforce.
With a background in human resources, Kraft saw a noticeable uptick in new cannabis industry jobs in his previous role at Sequoia Personnel Services, a Eureka staffing agency. Much like himself, Kraft points out, many professionals are entering the cannabis industry for the first time. “You don’t have to be a cannabis user or have previously worked in a cannabis industry to get on board with Papa & Barkley,” explains Kraft. “But you have to buy into our mission and values.”
As a company, Papa & Barkley sends team members to volunteer at local community events each month. Current partnerships include Food for People, Humboldt County’s food bank, and Papa & Barkley also sponsors the Humboldt Crabs, Arcata’s farm league baseball team. This March, a Papa & Barkley crew will dress up and jump into the freezing waters of Humboldt Bay as part of the annual Perilous Plunge, a fundraiser for the Redwood Discovery Museum. “We take pride in our hyper local community efforts,” explains Kraft.
Further north in Arcata, Dark Staffing Solutions is a full-service cannabis staffing company that helps local job seekers connect with cannabis companies like Papa & Barkley. Owner Jaymi Dark explains that most job openings are related to cultivation - garden managers, manicurists, and production workers but she’s also placing controllers, accountants, executive assistants, and drivers. “It’s everything you can think of,” says Dark.
With her own background in human resources, Dark seized the opportunity to leverage her own skills to support for Humboldt County’s cannabis community. “Humboldt County has never gotten enough recognition for all our successful start-ups,” says Dark. “We’re killing it up here.”
In 2018, Dark Staffing Solutions placed more than 300 employees. Dark reports that at least 75 percent have direct experience in the cannabis industry and at least 50 percent of her job applicants live in Humboldt County. She explains the skills required aren’t much different across traditional sectors. “These jobs require the ability to work hard and dedicate yourself,” says Dark, who places the most candidates during the seasonal peaks in farm labor. In response to the fear that mom-and-pop cannabis farms are an endangered species, Dark explains that she hasn’t observed job loss, but a shift. While compliant farms can no longer depend on the inflated margins of the black market, many farms are rapidly evolving to meet the demand and needs of the legal industry. “We can hardly breathe during the busy season,” Dark explains.
As the “matchmaker” between cultivators and job seekers, Dark is impressed with how the community continues to adapt to the economic shift. Only in her second full year of business, Dark expects to place even more local job seekers in 2019. While hourly wages may never match black market payouts, industry employees and professionals are enjoying unprecedented job security and stability on Humboldt County’s world-famous cannabis farms.