How to Compensate and Incentivize Your Cannabis Retail Team

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By contributor Samantha Harrington

Retail is an incredibly important part of the cannabis industry. Consumers interact with retail – the customer-facing staff – all the time. Budtenders and assistant managers are the faces of the industry.

As many brick-and-mortar store locations of non-cannabis companies continue to shut down and let go of staff, cannabis retail is rapidly opening new stores and adding staff. And we expect that to continue over the next several years as more states expand their medical programs and/or transition to adult use.

Because of the fast-paced growth and demand for cannabis retail employees, people who get a job in cannabis retail and are hard-working quickly move up the ladder. 

The challenges of finding cannabis retail employees

There are aspects of cannabis retail that resemble the non-cannabis retail and hospitality sectors. But while retail and hospitality experience is certainly helpful, working in cannabis retail is different. For example, cannabis retail includes aspects of experiential retail, hospitality, fast-casual dining, quality requirements, and following SOPs. There’s truly nothing else like cannabis retail and it’s hard to provide competitive compensation based solely on single comparisons of cannabis to any similar non-cannabis sector. 

Varying customer base. The customer base in cannabis drastically varies. It takes skill to adjust the approach to service and know the best product recommendations based on the demographic being served. In one day, a retail associate may interact with: 

  • Baby boomers trying to fight pain and inflammation
  • The after-work crowd looking for an alternative to alcohol 
  • A nurse who’s getting medication for a patient coping with end-of-life
  • A heavy, long-time recreational consumer with a high tolerance

Strict regulations. There are very strict compliance and inventory management requirements in every state. Not only do cannabis retail operations have a diverse customer base in the front-of-house, but the back-of-house is very complex. Compliance, inventory manager, reporting to the state, and taxation.

With the unique challenges that cannabis retail employees face and the high-turn over rate, cannabis retail compensation is crucial in determining the success of a cannabis retail location.


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