There were firm handshakes.
Intense eye contact.
And the sincere repetition of first names.
Over the weekend, in a bare-walled art gallery on Highland Avenue, well-scrubbed job seekers came, resumes in hand, to connect with prospective employers.
But this was a job fair with a twist: All the employers are in the California cannabis business. And almost without exception, their companies are growing explosively.
“Sales-wise, we are doubling every year,” said Leo Dai, 33, who owns Growers Choice, an indoor light company in the City of Industry. Dai had come to recruit for sales and customer service jobs. Knowledge of horticultural lighting fixtures, while helpful, was not a must.
“Our product sells itself,” he said. “Our customers are educated. They know what they want.”
Nearly 900 people signed up for the free fair on Eventbrite; about 200 showed up to chat with a dozen or so employers, who had paid less than $400 to attend. Employers included cannabis cultivators, edibles manufacturers, dispensaries and a cannabis trade magazine.
“This is not a revenue generator for us,” said Michael Ray of San Francisco-based Bloom Farms, the job fair sponsor. “It’s more of a community service. And the truth is, by organizing it, we get first crack at the best candidates.”
So far, Ray has organized seven or eight job fairs. Bigger, he has learned, is not better. One fair in Oakland drew 2,000 job seekers, far too chaotic. “You can’t really get to know someone in two minutes if you have a line behind you that’s 20 people long.”
Now, he brings in fewer employers and caps attendance. Over time, hundreds of people have found work.
“Everything is coming out of the shadows in the California cannabis space,” Ray said. “And just like any other industry, we need an organized system to bring qualified job seekers together with top level brands.”
Last year, the cannabis website, Leafly, estimated that the legal cannabis industry employs about 122,000 people full-time. A third of the jobs are based in California. Now that the state’s voters have approved recreational marijuana, that number is, of course, expected to skyrocket. Arcview Market Research estimates the legal cannabis industry in the U.S. at about $6.8 billion in 2016. It is expected to more than triple by 2020.
I told Ray I was surprised not to smell even a whiff of California cannabis anywhere.
“Well, we urge people to leave it at home for this kind of event,” he said. “We are all very cannabis friendly, but there is a time and a place for it.”