Challenges of benefits and HR for marijuana industry – Employee Benefit Adviser

After working in the cannabis industry for five years, Heather Smyth knows firsthand the pitfalls of operating in a cash business. She recalls being paid by a former employer in money orders or Visa gift cards.

Now as director of marketing at Wurk, a workforce management company that serves the U.S. cannabis industry, Smyth empathizes with the employee populations she helps guide.

Although sanctioned at the state level throughout much of the nation, the sale of marijuana still violates federal law. As a result, there are numerous challenges to overcome from an HR and benefits standpoint.

In 2015 Keegan Peterson made a gutsy move to serve an industry that mainstream payroll providers had snubbed or abandoned because the sale of cannabis complicates financial transactions. A friend on the frontline of this activity revealed to him a dire need for solutions around banking, taxes and compliance for cannabis entrepreneurs.

Banking is the operative word. Without it, these businesses will be hard-pressed to offer much of a benefits package to attract and retain talent, not to mention an uphill climb in other areas. As founder and CEO of Wurk, Peterson applied years of experience with human capital management software to help guide this burgeoning industry.

His Denver-based firm has field reps in Indiana, California and Nevada, as well as clients in every regulated market in the U.S. that hope to thrive in the face of uncertain regulatory environments. An expansion into Canada where recreational use of marijuana was recently legalized is also being considered.

Bloomberg News

Marijuana is legal in some form across 31 states and the District of Columbia, which shows just how large the industry has grown. While most of those states have approved limited use of medical marijuana, about one-third of them have passed laws allowing for recreational use

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