Roxbury job fair at Reggie Lewis Track connected seekers to ‘cannabis economy’

A cannabis job fair held last Wednesday night attracted several hundred people to the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Roxbury. Jonathan Ng photo

Hundreds of job seekers turned out to a cannabis job fair last Wednesday night at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Roxbury, in hopes of securing one of more than 160 available jobs at 15 marijuana businesses.

The job fair was hosted by the Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association (MassCBA) and a coalition of advocacy groups to connect prospective job applicants to a variety of marijuana businesses, in both medical and recreational markets.

Organizers say the event underscores the rapid growth of the state’s cannabis economy, including the range of new jobs available for people looking to join the budding marijuana sector. According to projections from Weedmaps, an online cannabis dispensary locator, a mature Massachusetts cannabis industry is poised to create 19,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

James McMahon is the interim chair of MassCBA and an attorney that guides entrepreneurs looking to enter into the emerging marijuana sector from development, licensing, site identification and evaluation.

“As more and more sites open, there’s a huge need for jobs and local employment,” said McMahon. “The need for that trusted and trained workforce takes a while which is why operators are starting that process almost as soon as they are building a site up.”

Revolutionary Clinics currently has a cultivation facility in Fitchburg, a medical marijuana dispensary in Somerville, and two new sites opening in Cambridge later this year.

“We have a lot of very good paying jobs that are full-time with good benefits,” said the company’s chief executive, Keith Cooper. “We are also bringing in many manufacturing jobs. Many of the positions aren’t limited to cultivation. It includes security, cooking, human resources, and of course, our retail operations.”

The job fair also included a free legal consultation for prospective employees hoping to seal their Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) related to past marijuana possession convictions. Following the passage of An Act to Ensure Safe Access to Marijuana last year, individuals with criminal court records for unlawful possession of marijuana are eligible to seal those past records.

“I want to commend the MassCBA and all the organizations who put this event on to make sure that there was a record-sealing component,” said Shaleen Title, a commissioner at the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), the regulatory agency tasked with overseeing the rollout and implementation of the state’s nascent cannabis industry. “It’s really important to make sure that if marijuana is legal now, we are also helping people who have been criminalized for it in the past, especially understanding that it had been enforced in disparate ways.”

Pauline Quirion, director of the CORI and Re-entry Project at the Greater Boston Legal Services said, “Unfortunately, most employers will not hire somebody with a record, even if it’s something really minor.” She added, “It can also affect housing if a landlord does a background check. Having your criminal records sealed, they wouldn’t see that information.”

On July 1, Massachusetts became the seventh state in the U.S. where adults 21 years of age or older can legally purchase recreational cannabis, however, people looking to toke up will not find any dispensaries to purchase it from. That’s because regulators from the CCC would first need to license an independent testing lab. State law also requires all recreational marijuana products sold would need to be tested for safety before any retail sales can begin.

Cannabis advocates also say the issue of host community agreements have stymied the recreational sales rollout.

“We’re seeing a lot of the issues on the municipal levels from zoning, host community agreements, neighbor and community opposition,” said McMahon. “The CCC will not consider license applications until that agreement has been made with the town or city. We need to loosen the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that some municipalities hold over these businesses.”

“The individuals who are looking to operate in Massachusetts, for the most part, want to be held to a higher standard and are constantly going through the extra steps to improve their success,” he said. “I would say to treat this business like any other; let it sink or swim on its own merits.”