The Marijuana Industry Needs Background Screening Too

Written by Brenda Lund on September 20, 2017

With over 122,000 full-time positions supported in 29 states — and more being added every day — the need for consistent, high-quality background screening is obvious in the burgeoning medical and recreational marijuana industry.

Unlike many other more established (and less controversial) industries, however, the marijuana industry faces a few unique challenges that make the need for professional employee screening services even more acute at this point. Here are a few of the biggest challenges facing employers in this relatively new sector:

Touchy public perception

While the initial stigma faced by business owners in early adoption states is largely fading at this point, there are still issues with public opinion that cause many cannabis companies to seek out ways to legitimize themselves and boost their reputations as professionals.

For example, in states where marijuana has been legalized for medical use, but not yet for recreational use, growers and dispensers continue to face the public assumption that employees and executives alike are walking a very thin line between what’s legal and what’s not.

In Pennsylvania, where medical marijuana was just legalized this year, new companies are following very strict hiring standards, which includes incorporating stringent, state-mandated background check procedures. According to Open Online, “Background investigations are required for organizations looking to hire staff to work with the product, primary caregivers who recommend use, and financial backers who will invest in businesses. The industry will look out for criminal histories that involve drug use or any other red flags that indicate an applicant may not be of ‘good moral character.’”

And, in states where recreational use is already legalized, employers are likewise taking steps to assure conservative members of the public that their operations aren’t run by a crowd of burnouts who are constantly high. In this case, too, formal screening services can go a long way toward assuaging the public’s fears (whether they’re justified or not.)

Legitimate criminal concerns

While it’s clear even to most opponents of legalization at this point that pot doesn’t belong in the same list has cocaine, heroin, and other hard drugs, industry companies do need to guard against a criminal element that can profit by stealing or otherwise taking advantage of an employee position.

For example, in states where pot is legal, but where a short drive brings one to a neighboring state where it remains illegal, criminals eager to get their hands on valuable product to sell would be very interested in securing employment at cannabis farms and dispensaries. Likewise, in states where pot is legalized for medical use only, that same subset of society would love to gain access to the product to sell illegally for recreational use.

Background checks focused on uncovering prior convictions for selling drugs or recent residence across the border in a non-legalized state can provide valuable warning for employers working to avoid these common issues.

Lack of cooperation from Federal agencies

Due to the fact that marijuana remains a schedule 1 illegal substance at the federal level, the Department of Justice (DOJ) — including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) — has been notoriously fickle about assisting states with background checks that cross state lines and providing national-level background check information. While they have approved and provided pre-license screening in Colorado and Illinois, for instance, Washington is still waiting for the FBI to step up.

This fact makes confirming criminal records and other background information originating in other states more challenging for marijuana companies than for traditional employers operating right next door.

This conundrum impacts a number of employment laws and workplace policies beyond pre-employment screening too. For instance, while use of pot may be legal in your state, the federal law allowing for employees to be fired for drug use still applies and can be enforced throughout the United States, even when applied to marijuana use in legalized states.

How can cannabis companies overcome these challenges?

Without a doubt, the very best option for companies dealing with these and other challenges surrounding choosing the best employees for their legal marijuana business is to rely on a professional employment screening partner with experience working with similar companies in a legalized state. Rather than trying to navigate these treacherous waters on their own, business owners and executives can rest assured the very best screening services rely on appropriate investigative practices, so they can go back to focusing on other key aspects of running and growing their businesses.

But how do you choose such a partner?

How to choose the best background screening partner for your marijuana business

The three key factors to consider when choosing a pre-employment background screening agency are:

  • Experience
  • Customization/Support
  • Price

While there are many agencies (operating primarily online) that promise incredible things for unbelievable prices, they’re frequently lacking in the realm of customization and support. On the other hand, some agencies with incredible customization and support capabilities, and years of valid experience, may be grossly overpriced.

The best choice for your business is going to be the agency that can prove itself to be highly experienced, willing and able to customize their services to meet each client’s unique needs, while asking a fair, affordable price.

Of these three qualities, perhaps the most important for cannabis companies is the agency’s experience, specifically when it comes to navigating the complex environment of investigating employees in states where marijuana has been legalized for medical and/or recreational use. Working with a screening partner who’s never dealt with that unique situation can lead to important issues being missed, or sticky legal entanglements being caused unnecessarily.

As one of the leading background screening companies in Colorado (where pot has been legal for medical use since 2000, and for recreational use since 2014), NationSearch combines the very best of these three key factors, identifying themselves clearly as an excellent choice for marijuana businesses in need of consistent, high-quality background check results.  

If that describes you, we encourage you to contact NationSearch today to see the power of experience working for you!

Questions about background screening? Download this free FAQ eBook.

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Topics: Helpful HR Resources, Original Features, Background Screening Education

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