Vermont now well over 1,000 Cannabis Business employees
Since recreational cannabis was legalized in Vermont, the state has issued 1,123 employee licenses.
"Employee IDs are required to work in any type of cannabis establishment, not just retail," said James Pepper, chairman of the Vermont Cannabis Control Board. "The number of issued cards does not necessarily equal the number of new jobs. An ID card is an authorization to work in the Vermont cannabis industry. Some people might get one in advance of actually applying to or working at a cannabis establishment."
That number also doesn't include owners, who get their license through the business application process, though they may work in the storefront as well.
To qualify for an employee license, applicants must complete trainings in operations, security, health, safety, and sanitation; compliance, enforcement, inspection, incident reporting, and record-keeping; acceptable forms of identification for staff and visitors; inventory control and appropriate tracking systems; cash handling; human trafficking and domestic violence awareness; diversity, equity, and inclusion; racism and bias; and sexual harassment and discrimination.
Customer-facing employees must also receive training on the health effects of cannabis and cannabis products; prevention of the sale of cannabis to minors; and signs of overconsumption and signs of mental health or substance abuse disorder.
Applicants must also be 21, submit their fingerprints, submit to a background check and reveal any previous criminal convictions.
"I was a dispensary agent in medical marijuana for Maryland, and saw the people that helped, so that really inspired me to continue on this journey," said Matt Malinoski, a budtender at Theory Wellness who moved to the area in December 2022.
"It's a great company to work for. They have a great culture. They really give you the tools to succeed, and they keep it positive."
Before he moved to New England, Malinoski worked in health care and the hospitality industry.
He said his favorite part of the job is meeting people from all walks of life every day.
Holly Fiske, another budtender at Theory Wellness in Brattleboro, said working in the cannabis industry is her "dream job."
"I have always had a passion for cannabis and learning what it does for different people," she said. "I really enjoy seeing how it helps them."
Isaac Viscarrondo, a supervisor at Theory Wellness, moved up from Theory Wellness's branch in Westfield, Mass., to work in Brattleboro.
He said about 10 people work in Brattleboro, full and part time.
"Before I was working for Theory, I was at a gas station in my hometown," said Viscarrondo, who said his interest in cannabis was sparked when his mother received a breast cancer diagnosis and needed cannabis to help alleviate the effects of treatment.
"She's beating it now," he said.
Viscarrondo said having "clean" cannabis grown in a regulated environment meant he could provide his mom with a safe product, while he could never guarantee street weed would be unadulterated.
Adelaide Abbott, an assistant manager at Cannabis Maximus on Putney Road in Brattleboro, grew up in Jamaica and worked at a spa and waitressed before taking a job in the industry.
"Being able to be a part of this newer industry, which I think is going to do a lot of really great things for Vermont, is awesome," said Abbott. "It's awesome watching it evolve and being part of it. And a lot of the people that we work with who are in this industry are really interesting and really fun."
Abbott also enjoys meeting her customers and learning what their needs are.
"There are so many different medicinal properties, so we're really able to help people here," she said. "I find that that's probably the most rewarding part of the job, is being able to help people who are struggling."
Connor, who asked that his last name not be used, works part time at Cannabis Maximus and also runs his own real estate photography business.
"I'm excited to see that the cannabis industry has finally become a part of Vermont," he said. "I think that it's been long overdue. And we were really behind the game."
Like other budtenders, Connor said what he really likes most about the job is interacting with the customers.
"We have a variety of customers, all age groups," he said. "It's always interesting to see our elderly population come in here because they're really so accustomed to things being regulated and truly illegal. For them, this was never even a possibility."
He also likes talking to his customers about the medicinal properties of cannabis.
Tia Lafoe was a housekeeper for 15 years before getting her license to sell cannabis.
"I did not hesitate for a second to take the job at Cannabis Maximus," she said. "I love seeing new people and our regulars. They're having a bad day sometimes when they walk in, they see us and there's a smile on their faces."