A cannabis job fair was held at Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) in Somerset County yesterday to fill jobs at the medical cannabis dispensary Verano’s processing and cultivation center in nearby Readington.
Verano is a cannabis company operating in multiple states that has its flagship New Jersey dispensary in Elizabeth and satellites in Neptune Twp. and Lawrence Twp.
Raritan Valley Community College Hosts
Cannabis entrepreneur and educator Sarah Trent spearheaded the collaboration with the Greater Raritan Workforce Development Board and Verano. Trent approached the Board in June, which was happy to work with her and Verano, recognizing them as part of a growing industry in the state and the area. They subsequently put the event together.
Trent has been holding classes on entering the cannabis industry and would like a medical cannabis license in Somerset County.
At the beginning of the cannabis job fair, there was an hour-long info session with workforce development professionals about the nuances of the positions.
Professionals answered questions about the industry. Then individuals signed up to speak to Verano’s representatives one on one.
A wide range of people came to the cannabis job fair from different backgrounds and ages. About 65 people attended the class.
Building the NJ Cannabis Workforce
Verano General Manager Joseph Hall said they are looking to fill about 130 different jobs, including lab and kitchen positions to create more edibles and a skincare lotion.
Hall noted they opened their kitchen to scale up in anticipation of the adult-use cannabis market opening in the last couple of months. He explained they have introduced lozenges, which are currently available, and infused chocolate, which is in the works.
Previously Curaleaf’s lozenges were the only edibles available in New Jersey’s medical cannabis market. They have been described as wholly inadequate. The lack of edibles in the market has provided a market opportunity for gifting entrepreneurs who specialize in them.
Hall said they’re eager to roll out features that their original Chicago dispensaries have, including vertically integrated delivery service.
“That’s what Illinois has. So, whatever is allowable, we will have some scale of that in New Jersey. We’re just waiting to see what happens,” he said.
Hall has a background in food science and previously ran a business growing hemp which helped him secure his position with Verano.
He noted he had been in the industry for only. Two years ago, he said to his son cannabis is unlawful.
“Dad, don’t judge me,” he recounted his son saying.
Hall noted the stigma against cannabis is dying.
Cannabis Job Fair Recruiting
Verano was looking for cannabis Grow Specialists and Packaging Specialists who could rise through the company. Packaging Specialists ensure there is proper weight in the bag and all Quality Assurance is done, including properly sealed bags.
Verano was looking to fill more than 100 jobs.
Sam Padro was in the first round of Trent’s classes and is now a teacher. He now works at Verano now and was helping recruit people for the company.
He noted Verano is getting ready to “ramp things up” and is opening 10 flower rooms and veg rooms.
“Production is getting ready to get ramped up for the maximum,” Padro said.
They are seeking to secure sufficient supply for the medical cannabis and the adult-use cannabis markets.
It will be interesting to see how much supply is deemed adequate for medical by the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) since medical cannabis is so pricy.
Padro was in Trent’s class last June.
“It literally changed my life,” he said.
Padro explained he was working 12-to-14-hour days delivering ice cream previously. He now enjoys the stability of his job with Verano. Padro praised Trent’s course.
“This is medicine we’re talking about. You wouldn’t want to take a Tylenol that has an open package. Same thing with cannabis,” Padro said.
Building an Industry
Trent explained that it seemed Verano needed to be brought together with RVCC, which could help them fill jobs.
“In my class, we get a really diverse group of students,” Trent explained. While some are looking for a career, others just want to learn more about the industry.
Therefore, she partnered with Verano to fill jobs at their cultivation and processing center in Readington, NJ. While it’s in Hunterdon County, it’s a short drive from RVCC in an old Walmart but has a Somerset County mailing address where RVCC is based.
Trent is among the many applicants waiting for the 2019 Alternative Treatment Center (ATC) application round results, a process that started 24 months ago. It remains delayed due to a lawsuit that was likely stalled due to COVID. Her proposed dispensary location is near RVCC and Verano’s cultivation and processing center.
She initially turned to RVCC when she sought to educate the community and build public support for a medical cannabis dispensary.
“RVCC has been supportive for two and half years,” Trent noted.