As Yolo County tries to become a hub of the legal marijuana industry in California, employers and pot advocates held the county’s first cannabis job fair in Davis on Wednesday.
The fair drew more than 300 people looking for jobs in marketing, farming, media, accounting, distribution and holistic medicine to the largely rural county, where traditional crops include tomatoes and alfalfa.
“There’s a great need for filling jobs and stimulating economic growth in this industry,” said Lorne Silverstein, CEO of Integrate Cal Community Partners, a sponsor of the job fair.
Because the regulations on cannabis are strict and complex, the industry needs a specialized workforce that can navigate its bumpy legal and financial landscape, organizers said.
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Salaries are competitive. Accountants start at $41,000 and can make up to $70,000 a year with experience, said Brett Gonsalves, CEO of Rolling Hills Bookkeeping, an accounting firm that exclusively deals with the cannabis industry.
Sacramento “budtenders” – dispensary salespeople that educate customers about the effects of different strains – typically make $15 an hour in Sacramento, and year-round farmers earn $25 to $35 an hour, he said.
Uriah Mills, a cannabis grower and owner of Surreal Solutions, an outfit that bills itself as providing “sustainably produced natural medicine,” moved his family to Yolo County to break into the cannabis industry. Mills is recruiting trimmers for his farm near Esparto in the Capay Valley.
“We want to hire people from the local community who are regular people with regular jobs,” Mills said. “People are looking at this more as an opportunity instead of with skepticism.”
Samantha Dietsche, a massage therapist, came to the job fair looking for a career change. She said she’s going back to school to study management and horticulture to get in on the business side of the medical marijuana industry.
“I’m a huge supporter of the medicinal use of cannabis, and I’m here because I want to run a collective,” she said.
While people milled between tables, learning about job opportunities, the fair maintained a “nice and homey environment,” said Sasha Alexander, a budtender from Sacramento.
The fair was held in the Odd Fellows Hall in downtown Davis, in a room that looked like a school gym with a wooden floor and stage. There were tables filled with snacks, such as cookies and danishes, that stretched the width of the hall.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Alexander said. “I’ve never seen anything like this before. I came here to expand my knowledge of cannabis and how I can become more useful when providing my services.”
The passage of Proposition 64 in November, which legalized recreational pot, gave the cannabis industry a jump start in California. According to Forbes, cannabis sales raked in $6.7 billion in 2016.
The measure gave counties and cities some ability to regulate the industry at the local level.
On Tuesday, the Davis City Council adopted an ordinance allowing labs for commercial cannabis testing, which may make Davis a focal point of the industry, according to Eric Gudz, chief operating officer of Integrate Cal Community Partners and executive director for Yolo County Cannabis Coalition.
“Especially here in Davis, there’s a look to really push Yolo County … ahead to be a bellwether and really serve as a model of how to do this not only in California, but as far as I’m concerned, across the country,” Silverstein said.
Molly Sullivan: 916-321-1175, @SullivanMollyM