As a human race, we’re relatively predictable.
The majority of people probably have the same image in their heads that I did coming across a website for a staffing firm devoted to the medical marijuana industry:
Two guys in tie-dyed t-shirts chillin' around the hookah. In my head, they bore a strong resemblance to Jeff Spicoli and were using their "heightened" perspective to brainstorm ideas for a new business.
I contacted the Denver-based company, CannaStaff, for an interview last week during normal business hours, and when I received a response circa 1 a.m., I felt my theory was closer to reality than I thought.
But upon speaking to CannaStaff President Travis Howard, all the banal puns I’d planned to make went up in smoke.
Howard is a business attorney who formed the parent company CannaCounsel with partner Neil Demers, who is the COO of CannaStaff, in 2010.
Since I don’t want to assume that by now everyone knows where the term medical marijuana came from, I’ll give you a rundown of what ailments the plant has been found to abate: Cancer, glaucoma, severe pain, even anorexia.
- HB 1284 gave cities the right to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in hopes of somehow regulating it.
- HB 1043 puts further limits on the industry, such as who is allowed to sell medical marijuana.
Fifteen states allow medicinal marijuana use. Which means the need for trained individuals in the medical marijuana industry has grown like a weed.
Meanwhile, Howard, a business attorney with a background in running large companies, wanted to get involved in the industry after watching his sister-in-law, a cancer victim, go through trials of dealing with bureaucracy for a drug that would ultimately help her.
The combination of personal interest and Colorado’s so-called “cleanup bill” efforts spurred Howard into action.
“That’s when I saw the need and opportunities for medical marijuana staffing,” Howard told me. “You have an industry ripe for a staffing presence.”
He had just the person in mind, too – his business partner and now-COO of CannaStaff, Neil Demers. Demers, who has a master’s degree in finance, liked the idea.
Both men felt that the medical marijuana industry needed them.
CannaStaff finds work for employees in Denver’s medical marijuana dispensaries. The positions range from professional trimmers and budtenders to chefs and marketing managers.
Howard said that CannaStaff places trimmers regularly, as “these people play a big role” when it comes to medical marijuana patients. The dispensaries need a temporary crew depending on harvest cycles, sometimes 10-15 people.
Master growers are “kind of the high-end training,” Howard added.
Howard said that since the brand began in fall 2010, CannaStaff has placed about 100 people in medical marijuana dispensaries. “I can safely say that we've interviewed 1,000 people,” Howard said.
Howard speaks with passion when he says he is sickened by the reliance terminally ill people have on synthetic painkillers, like Vicodin or Oxycontin,which are doled out frequently by the medical industry.
“We are creating hardcore drug addicts,” he said.
Yet, he continued, so many people have been brainwashed to think of marijuana as one of the hardcore drugs, as opposed to an earthy, “real” medicine that can be obtained at respectable dispensaries. Rhetorically, Howard asks why our body has a system that allows this substance to attack the illnesses if we’re not supposed to be ingesting it.
CannaStaff wants to dispel the myth that the medical marijuana industry is full of “dirty drug traffickers,” which keeps CannaStaff fighting a constant uphill battle to promote its legitimacy. Howard has even had colleagues de-friend him on social networking sites.
What are they afraid of, a contact high? No, Howard said, they are afraid of looking unprofessional in front of potential employers if they are associated with pot in any way.
Howard’s pipe dream (sorry!) is to see the future of medical marijuana evolving to where we see physicians trained to work solely in the dispensaries. We think it's high time you gave them a chance!