Wrong to right: U.S. company helps people overcome cannabis convictions and find jobs

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A recruitment agency is turning weakness into strength for people with cannabis convictions on their record.

Miami-based HempStaff helps companies in Illinois and five other states locate potential employees who meet certain social equity requirements — such as having a non-violent marijuana conviction in their past. Under legalization law in Illinois, the more workers companies employ with cannabis convictions, the better their chances become of landing a coveted licence to grow and sell the drug.

Companies get an added bonus if employees come from areas deemed to be “disproportionately impacted” by the War on Drugs. The additional points could go a long way toward success in the application process, James Yagielo, CEO of HempStaff, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“We provide a focused list to the client, utilizing the ‘designated geographic area map’ and the required experiences, ultimately allowing the business owner to select the candidates they wish to interview and employ. (This) could very well be the difference between having enough points over someone or not,” Yagielo said.

With 75 more conditional dispensary licences set to be issued in May, companies have been reaching out, he added.

But not everyone is onboard with the new provision. Chicago City Council’s Black Caucus said it was unhappy that employers were allowed to benefit from the social equity status of its employees, arguing that this does not do enough to encourage minority ownership.

The caucus noted it is considering introducing an ordinance that would prohibit all sales of recreational cannabis in the city unless the issue is addressed.

As the process plays out, no animosity has been directed at HempStaff, Yaielo said, likely because it is working to help disadvantaged employees. “We’re getting people jobs from that area,” he said. “We’re only following the regulations set by the state.”

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