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Floridians are clamoring for medical marijuana jobs -- but state laws limit opportunity

In a state with ‘dysfunctional’ medical marijuana laws, people hoping for jobs face stringent background checks

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Florida’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry is struggling to fill vacant job openings despite having thousands of people in the state who hoped to work in the industry.

“We get hundreds of applications for every job opening we have,” a spokesman at an Orlando dispensary recently told the Orlando-Sentinel Newspaper. “And maybe only 10 percent of those are qualified and meet the legal requirements.”

The problem, in large part, goes back to Florida’s medical marijuana legalization program, one that the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has described as “one of the more dysfunctional programs in the United States.”

Prior possession charges weeding out candidates

An overwhelming 70 percent of Florida residents voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2016, but it was up to state lawmakers and regulators within the health department to smooth out the details before the law could be implemented.

Dispensaries began opening their doors last year, and patients have signed up to join the program at a rapid fire pace. An estimated 147,000 residents now carry medical marijuana cards. Those in the industry predict that dispensaries could create 25,000 jobs by 2022.

But included in the state’s long list of regulations is the stipulation that  dispensary employees undergo background checks. Anyone found with a felony on their record is automatically disqualified.

Misdemeanor charges could also pose a problem under the state laws, industry experts say. “Sometimes you can get by with a low-level, misdemeanor possession charge, but not always,” another industry spokesman told the Sentinel.

To give more people hoping to join the workforce a chance, the Miami-based firm HempStaff has a somewhat ironic idea. People hoping to work in the medical marijuana industry “should avoid bringing up any illegal activity regarding cannabis in an interview,” the firm reportedly warns job candidates.

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