Daniel Peck currently runs the executive search firm, THC Talent Solutions. Daniel has worked in recruitment and staffing for over 15 years and with his previous business, Principal Search Partners, his clients have included Google, PayPal, Mercedes Benz, RoofTop Digital, DirectTV and many more. Nowadays, Daniel’s focus is on recruiting for the cannabis industry at all levels, from budtenders to dispensary managers, master cultivators to extraction artists and all the way up to the executive / C level suite.
We don’t often hear much from this side of the industry very much, especially with all the new scientific discoveries on cannabis coming out and the political battles between pro-and anti- legalization efforts. People often forget that there are lots of people who actually work in the cannabis industry, and their jobs are on a knife-edge on a daily basis. Cannabis is, after all, federally illegal, and many people could lose their jobs very easily if (sometimes very tricky) legislation isn’t adhered to or if law enforcement/politicians decide to make an example out of a person or a company. We’ve decided to get together with Daniel and ask him how to navigate such a “grey area” …
Could you tell us your story and how you got into the cannabis industry?
I was on holiday in Jamaica with my wife at the Goldeneye resort which is gorgeous property previously owned by Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond novels. Ian Fleming lived and wrote his famous James Bond series of books at Goldeneye so the property definitely has an allure of mystery to it. I’d always wanted to visit the Island as I have been a lifelong reggae lover and Bob Marley fan since I was a teenager. I was chilling on the beach one day smoking a bif fat Jamaican spliff and thinking to myself, “How many Dispensaries I had seen at home before I left?”
I couldn’t help but notice how many stores had “popped up overnight” so close to one another. It was like Starbucks. One on every corner and I thought to myself, “This is unusual. There must be a huge opportunity in Marijuana if stores are opening up literally within walking distance from one another.” Immediately I started to wonder, “Who is staffing and helping these store owners recruit talent and hire employees for the store?”
So I told my wife “ I think I’m going to open up a Marijuana Recruitment and Staffing Agency when we get home.” I started thinking of business names on the beach and started writing them down on a napkin. I had already been successfully running my general recruitment agency, Principal Search Partners, when I wrote down “THC Talent Solutions”. I liked the name so later that day when we went back to our hotel room, I searched for the domain name “THC Talent Solutions” and was pleasantly surprised to find it available so I immediately bought it from GoDaddy.
After a super relaxing week in Jamaica I sprang into action when I returned back home to LA. I built the website , printed some business cards, attended my 1st Cannabis Tradeshow at the LA Convention Center and started hustling and looking for clients.
Does recruiting in the cannabis industry differ from any other industry you’ve worked in?
There are some differences. I would say the main difference is that the requirements of the clients are typically very very different from other industries, especially when you work with a cannabis cultivator who’s looking for a master grower or extraction artist. These are highly specialized skills that traditional employees would never ever have. I mean how many colleagues do you know that grow weed or use butane or CO2 to make cannabis extracts? Probably none. So I’d say that most of the clients we work with are very eager to find seasoned and experienced candidates, and they’re a lot more responsive when we do deliver candidates with the profiles that they are looking for than other industries we’ve worked in.
Do you find there’s a lot of people moving from the “illegal” to the “legal” side of the industry?
When we started our business 5 years’ ago. I would say this was very much a “grey” zone and a grey market here in Southern California where we’re based. As it’s become more mainstream, certainly in the past year or so with the passing of Proposition 64, it’s not such a dirty conversation anymore. There are cannabis billboards on local streets advertising dispensaries and cannabis brands and so on. Cannabis has become a lot more of a legitimate business, so it attracts those from “normal and traditional ” industries as well.
Do you think that cannabis being federally illegal has prevented some of the top talent from going into the industry?
Absolutely not. We are in the place where candidates are looking for a way in and getting their foot in the door. We get resumes from Harvard graduates, MBAs and more, all looking for opportunities in marijuana. But the truth of the matter is that most of the clients we work with have very specific requirements that the people they hire come from within the industry or, rather, that they have experience in a specific part of the industry. So there is a very, very high “base” supply of inexperienced candidates available in the marketplace, but very few qualified candidates. And the ones that are qualified are almost always gainfully employed and well compensated so it’s not very easy to find and attract talent for our clients roles.
So, as cannabis is a growing industry, would you say it’s become quite an attractive industry to go into?
I would say, “Yes, it has become more attractive.” I wish I could show you some of the emails and phone calls we get on a regular basis from people who have a bona fide interest in the cannabis industry, and would basically take any job in the industry, from working with flower as a trimmer to sales jobs selling extracts and edibles, even without compensation, just to get a foot in the door. And some of them are very well-qualified.
We receive on a regular basis CVs and resumes from people who have master’s degrees, even law degrees. For example, attorneys who are looking to get out of the general legal profession and who are making $150-200K for a private firm, and tell us in an email that they’ll work for $50 – $60,000 per year just to get their foot in the cannabis door. It’s crazy to me and I’m in the business.
So what do you look for in a new recruit?
Generally we look for experience. I mean, obviously in our industry, our clients pay us to find them the most seasoned and experienced talent, because they don’t have the time, resources or the experience to do it themselves. So, first and foremost, what we look for is qualified candidates that have the exact skill set that the client is looking for.
So, if we’re working for a farm that’s looking for a master cultivator, we want to make sure that the master cultivator has a certain number of years of experience growing, whether they specialize in indoor or outdoor grows, can share pictures of grows, lab testing to validate potency of the strains, show any awards they’ve won to ensure that they grow good-quality cannabis and of course, references to validate employment, experience and compensation.
How interested are the big corporations of this world in the cannabis industry?
I think that there’s more openness and willingness from those big corporations to put their toes in the water. I just recently heard about a very well-known executive who left a very large company in the US to open up a venture capital firm offering venture capital to marijuana startups. So there are a lot of people from these industries wanting to get out of mainstream business and into the cannabis industry, because at the end of the day it’s extremely lucrative and it is growing at an explosive rate.
Could you tell us more about the clients that you’ve worked with in the cannabis industry and what you’ve learnt from them?
Well, without exposing exactly who our clients are, we work and have worked with some of the most well- known and respected cannabis brands in the industry. We have helped our clients hire master cultivators, extraction artists, dispensary managers and field sales reps… We’ve also worked with various stores throughout the country that provide medical and recreational marijuana and we have provided them with dispensary managers and bud tenders.
I think the main thing we’ve learned across the board is that they’re all very passionate about the plant, and how it has helped them and their customers. How they just really enjoy working in the [legal] states and how people are becoming more open to it in both the recreational and medical aspects of cannabis.
Do you feel there’s been a significant change in attitude towards cannabis in the business world?
Oh Yeah, I think it’s becoming a lot more open. A lot more liberal. It’s not something that’s just done behind closed doors anymore. We have clients that wear suits to work, maintain beautiful office spaces in very prominent parts of the city. It’s no longer a “dirty money” industry that people used to perceive it as. There’s definitely a huge shift and most people are more responsive to discussing it. If you’re in it, it’s really like any other business. There’s no stigma attached to it anymore. As time progresses and it becomes legal in other states, as it will slowly but surely, it’ll become more-and-more commonplace. Soon you won’t blink an eye when the conversation comes up or you see TV ads for marijuana brands. Its coming, like or not.
How does cannabis help you, then? Do you find it helps keep and maintain a healthy lifestyle?
Well, cannabis has helped me for a number of years to relax. It has helped me to become more creative and to unwind after a long day. I wouldn’t say for me personally that it’s helped me maintain a healthy lifestyle. I think it’s a great addition to what I already do to maintain a healthy lifestyle, (including eating right and exercising) in that it helps me take the edge off and enhances certain situations and things that I’m doing by making them more enjoyable and more pleasurable.
Do you prefer it to alcohol?
I don’t necessarily prefer it to alcohol. I actually enjoy it in combination with alcohol!
Do you have a preferred strain and method of ingestion?
Yeah, I prefer indicas or a hybrid strain. I generally smoke, although I have started vaping more recently. There’s some great products on the market that are very clean and free of chemicals, butane and so on. I also like the old-school, sitting down and zen aspect of rolling a joint, but of late I’ve been vaping as it’s super discrete, doesn’t smell and doesn’t require any work to set up.
Which particular products, if you don’t mind me asking?
One of my favorite cannabis products I’m using right now is the brand, Lola Lola. I love their pre-rolls and cartridges. I also love Kiva Chocolates and Bhang Bars. My two all-time favorite flower strains are Kosher Kush and Gorilla Glue.
Do you use them for any specific medical purposes?
I actually started using cannabis when I was in college many years ago but that was just for fun and to get stoned. About 2 years ago, I was diagnosed with aggressive cancer and had an operation to remove the cancer and the organ it was confined to so at that point I started using medical marijuana and I think it helped me with some of the cancer treatment [radiotherapy and cancer medication] that I had to take. So from that component, cannabis has been great, and I haven’t had to take as many painkillers to help me with some of the side-effects from the treatment I had.
Could you tell us how you used to dose your cannabis when you had cancer?
Initially, I used edibles – sweets and chocolates – in lieu of some of the pills I’d been prescribed. Specifically after my surgery, when I was in pain and catheterized for several weeks after the operation, I never had an edible before and started using them at that point. One of my wife’s friends had brought some food over so my wife didn’t have to make supper that evening. They bought some lemon drop sweets with cannabis in them. I took a couple of them, and they really helped relieve the pain. During that period, I was primarily using edibles, candies and chocolates. And then, as that stash ran out, I smoked from time-to-time as well.
Did the medical side of cannabis come to you gradually, or did you know straight away that it had some medical benefit when you first started?
It came gradually to me. When I started in college, the type of marijuana that was being manufactured and being smoked back then was very, very different from the type of marijuana that’s being manufactured and used today. Suffice to say, back then, a lot went a long way, and now a little goes a long way. There’s really no comparison of the strains back then and the strains of today.
Back then, they weren’t nearly as potent. You’d have to smoke quite a bit of it to get a pretty good high for 30 – 45 minutes. Today, you can take two or three puffs, and you can get a pretty good high that lasts a couple of hours. They’ve engineered strains that are much stronger, much more potent and specifically able to deal with the needs of medical patients and people who don’t have any medical needs but just want to get really high. There is a large segment of the recreational market that like to get really high and want to get as high as possible. You know, these growers are meeting the demands of the marketplace and growing the strongest, most potent strains that they can. When I grew up there weren’t 30 different strains. There weren’t extracts and edibles. There was weed and hash. I’d make a call, get an ⅛ of weed and that was it. It was different back then. Today it’s a whole different ballgame.
One of the big problems in dispensaries is when people come up to budtenders and the like asking medical questions. How does a dispensary go about training them?
To be honest, I think there’s a great need for dispensaries across the board to either hire experienced budtenders, or provide better training to their current employees than they currently receive. In my own personal experience outside of my clients, and as a consumer I often find budtenders to be very inexperienced and simply motivated to sell product that’s not selling or to put any product in your hand. There’s a big need in the industry for education and training, because there are a lot of patients that have legitimate medical needs and don’t necessarily want to buy a high-THC strain.
They might well be better served by purchasing something with a high CBD content and low THC content. I think there needs to be better training across the board, and better education, so patients with medical needs can get good products. If you’re really sick and you need something to relieve pain or nausea, you don’t necessarily want to be super-stoned for 4 hours. Maybe you can’t eat cause of chemo and a strong strain will help you get the munchies and improve your appetite. We just need more people in the industry that know what they are talking about and can really educate a patient to help him/her make an informed decision.
Finally, what makes the cannabis plant so special to you?
I think the cannabis plant is a healing plant that provides incredible benefits for those who need it medically, spiritually and recreationally. It has been used since ancient times in prayers and meditation. It even provides phenomenal benefits for those who use cannabis recreationally and just need to tune out for a little bit and escape to another place. After all, don’t we all like a little vacation every now and then 🙂 even if it’s for an hour or two.
Overall, cannabis is a phenomenal plant, with a tremendous amount of offerings. I feel that, as time goes on and we learn more about it, there’ll be even more uses and more products made with cannabis. Cannabis is an incredible product with a lot of value, and provides tremendous purpose for many people who need it.
And that’s it for now from Daniel Peck. Catch him on Elevate the Conversation on Wednesday 11/29/2017 at 6 pm PST on Facebook Live or, if you’re in your car and need to tune in, UBN Radio.