Regulating a "Growing" Industry: The Role of Background Checks in the Cannabis Sector

By Michael Klazema on 9/5/2019

The retreat of the War on Drugs on the issue of marijuana sparked a revolution and led to the genesis of a new industry as businesses and entrepreneurs sought to tap into pent-up demand from medicinal, recreational, and industrial customers. The Farm Bill of 2018 represented a significant step forward for the industry with its legalization of hemp production. While marijuana growers may target recreational consumers, hemp also produces durable fibers and can yield the non-psychoactive substance CBD—one of the hottest supplements on the market today. 

Initially, conversations revolved around past drug convictions and their impact on employability in industries unrelated to marijuana. Attention shifted to the growers and business owners in the cannabis industry as government regulators began to ask, who should be able to take advantage of these new jobs? Protecting the new industry’s reputation and establishing a trustworthy public image start with this question, and background checks play a critical role in the answer.  

For growing cannabis or hemp, background checks inform hiring decisions that protect employees and businesses. When working with a valuable commodity, reducing the risk of employee fraud is of paramount concern for employers in addition to maintaining workforce safety.  

In 2017, Massachusetts' regulatory body governing cannabis growers issued a rule barring convicted drug traffickers from marijuana industry jobs. That action was among the first signs of concern over employee qualifications in this space. Then, in August 2019, Calaveras County in California considered requirements that would mandate background checks for farmers before they could receive a license to grow. Those employers would then assume the responsibility of vetting their hires. If authorities discovered that a grower violated prohibitions against hiring individuals with violent felonies, that grower could lose his or her license.  

A well-crafted background check policy may be more than a tool for safety and peace of mind—in some states, it’s a requirement. That includes the state of Michigan, which broadly requires background checks for not only farmers but also those who process hemp and marijuana.  

What do these trends mean for industry professionals, especially prospective hemp farmers interested in producing CBD? Background checks are an essential tool, and these farmers must develop a framework that enables fast access to relevant background information for applicants and employees. Given the unique nature of the industry, administering pre-employment drug screenings may also help to safeguard employers. Not only will these steps assure compliance, but they are also a practical tool for industry professionals to use to protect their businesses and their customers. 

In such a competitive sector, a hiring backlog caused by lengthy or disorganized background check procedures can make or break a business. Find out how can help you to foster a safer and more trustworthy workforce with compliant vetting procedures through instant criminal history reports for the cannabis industry. 

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