Melissa Temple-Agosta: Human Resources Best Practices In The Cannabis Industry

Seaside Sales and Marketing provides support to cannabis companies and their employees with human resources services.

Melissa Temple-Agosta, general manager and business development manager at Seaside Sales and Marketing, has the solution to an increasingly common problem in the cannabis industry.

As a Professional Employer Organization, Seaside Sales & Marketing is able to provide an umbrella of protection for cannabis companies and their employees.

“There’s a common trend with companies between 10-80 employees to have no bandwidth to do their own HR,” Melissa said. “They outsource their services to a PEO for recruitment, payroll, and benefits. Some companies only want some of those services.”

Seaside Sales & Marketing launched in April of this year with a small family of companies, internally handling payroll and health insurance for clients. “We’ve started with 10 companies in the industrial hemp and CBD space, and we now offer our services to the whole marijuana industry.”

Melissa has over 20 years experience in human resources, training, team-building and education at L’Oreal. We talked about human resources challenges in the cannabis industry, including discrimination against cannabis industry employees.

Melissa Temple-Agosta. Photo provided.

How are cannabis industry employees being discriminated against?

Banks and insurance companies don’t always understand when they see a business name like “Medical Marijuana Inc.” in cannabis employee accounts, which can make it hard for people in the cannabis industry to get the lease or coverage they want.

There’s a lot of discrimination – If [companies outside the industry] see cannabis on a resume, they will discriminate in recruiting. Many candidates will have a cannabis and non-cannabis resume. Within our industry, we’re open to people who have or don’t have cannabis-related experience. When I talk to candidates about it, they come back amazed, it’s like opening their eyes to a new world of opportunity.

Do you have any recent examples?

Two cannabis company employees were denied home loans – and they both have them now. We’re able to provide employment verification to get someone the home they want. They were so excited and amazed that we were able to make it happen.

There was another situation with life insurance – some [cannabis industry] employees want it, but you have to get drug tested and they were denied. We helped the insurance company understand that there was a medical reason [for cannabis use] and we were able to open their mind.

How does joining a cannabis-focused Professional Employer Organization (PEO) help protect companies?

1. Dealing with liability – worker’s compensation, the law and liability of having employees.
2. Providing benefits, such as retirement.
3. Protecting against discrimination – Employers will have the best intentions for their employees to have a good experience, but then [the employee] has trouble getting a house. No employer wants that for their employee.

Having our PEO for the cannabis industry, it’s more personal than huge PEO agencies. We’re local, accessible and open-minded. It alleviates the challenge of aiding cannabis businesses – the PEOs and staffing agencies focused on cannabis businesses are needed.

Other PEOs are popping up – An HR or PEO that comes from say, traditional staffing might want to profit from the green rush, so they will put CBD or hemp in their name. But they need to be cannabis specific or they will hit a wall with jobs specific to the industry, like cannabis manufacturing or seasonal workers.

What do you think about recent court cases of employees being fired for medical cannabis use, even when they disclosed it prior to being hired?

In the states where it’s legal, employers need to change their mindset about medical cannabis. There are policies for drug use on the job, and people need to evolve — because now this is medicine. They’d probably have a totally different employee if they weren’t using medical cannabis.

You have to evolve.

My advice [to employees] is really to focus on your skills, your background and what you can bring to the table. My advice to companies is to keep an open mind and have a conversation with a candidate who has cannabis background. Often they will find the candidate has a personal connection to the cannabis industry along with a plethora of additional experience the company can use.

What’s your personal connection to the cannabis industry?

Fifteen years ago, I was in a serious car accident – I broke 10 bones above my waist and had a lot of surgeries over the years. I was living with a lot of pain and taking a lot of medicine. With medical marijuana I was able to get off all my medicine. I used CBD and THC products to function, with CBD in the mornings and marijuana in the evenings.

Can cannabis-specific HR change cannabis companies’ visibility outside the industry?

It can help upgrade the image of how they do business. I think for start-ups, you’ll see a company with 10 dispensaries but no system yet. HR is still difficult for them because they don’t have that set up yet. We give them guidance and legal advice to employees and their unique scenarios.

I’m excited to get the word out there about this, and get the word out about our industry. HR is the last thing people are paying attention to right now, but it will become more and more important with federal legalization.

Trafficroots Analysis Pixel