Cannabis Human Resource leaders aspire to be allies to employees, providing safe workplaces and health programs that support personal and professional growth. With a portion of the cannabis workforce suffering from depression, PTSD, substance use disorder, anxiety, and more, HR leaders must approach staff health and well being through an educated, compassionate lens.

Current state of the cannabis workforce

In order to support employees, managers must first understand who they are and what may be affecting them. This way, health and wellness programs can be designed to fit the needs of this diverse population, while remaining authentic to cannabis culture.  

Here are key insights to keep in mind about the people of cannabis:

  • Skills range from exceptional, to never being able to hold a job before, to their first time having a job
  • 80% of cannabis employees are under the age of 49
  • There are five generations in the American workforce
  • Turnover is high among cannabis employees that are paid less than $15 / hour
  • Employees typically leave within the first four months of employment at a cannabis business
  • Health claims run lower than average, generally and prescription use is lower than average
  • Professionalism exists and is still emerging within cannabis employees. There are themes of counterculture, suspicion of authority and hierarchy, and a tendency to resist following rules.

When developing health and wellness initiatives, consider the makeup of your workforce and how you can effectively communicate benefits and more to this diverse population.

Mental health and wellness nationwide

Mental health is a national crisis with suicide, opiate abuse, substance abuse disorder, depression and anxiety issues on the rise. In addition, homelessness, workplace violence, and shooting incidences continue to occur, leaving some employees displaced and traumatized.

62% of missed workdays can be attributed to mental health reasons (2019 Strong Minds at Work, UNUM)

While there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution for mental health in the workforce, there are a variety of resources available to help you address it at your organization. Employee Assistance programs offer free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems. These programs address a broad and complex body of issues affecting mental and emotional well-being, such as alcohol and other substance abuse, stress, grief, family problems, and psychological disorders. 

Supporting physical and mental health in cannabis

Authentically connect to the vision, mission, and culture of your cannabis business while supporting your people. Develop plans around mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health that mirror the voice of your business. If your medical dispensary prides itself on offering accessible medicine to lower-income neighborhoods, your benefit plans and wellness initiatives should be accessible for all employees. If growing quality product at your cultivation is paramount to your success, how are you supporting the physical health of your grow and trim staff? Are you offering comfortable stools, floor mats, and an inviting break room?

When your cannabis business has team meetings or staff celebrations, provide healthy food options, non-alcoholic beverages, and physical team building activities to help promote your focus on employee well being. When possible, ensure family-friendly social events that parents can bring their kids to.

Communicate with your employees through weekly check-ins to ensure they know their options and to provide a trusted way for them to discuss any personal challenges. If you offer benefits to employees, be sure they know their coverage includes mental health benefits as 47% of the workforce doesn’t know that.

Here are additional offerings some companies have in place to help facilitate a healthy workplace:

  • Self-defense classes for women
  • Monthly bonuses for new parents while on maternity leave
  • Work remotely for new parents – “flexible work schedules”, move to part-time or reduced hours
  • Childcare stipends or childcare centers in office
  • Leave reimbursement for fertility treatments, some benefits even cover fertility treatments

While we don’t yet have comprehensive data about the health of the cannabis workforce specifically, we can customize the way we support employees through medical benefits, perks, and communication methods that fit what we do know about the culture and diversity of people.

Understand how to support this unique workforce in a way that protects you legally by partnering with service providers that know the people of cannabis. Learn more.

This is a summary of our webinar with Dede Kennedy-Simington, a 30-year veteran of the insurance industry, known nationally for her expertise in the field of employee benefits, health insurance, and healthcare financing reform.  Watch the recording here.


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