TALENT IN CANNABIS PROFILES: What is a cannabis compliance manager?

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Tiffany Pulliam is currently the compliance manager for Cultivate Mass in central Massachusetts. She is a perfect example of taking your previous skills and applying them to the cannabis industry in a creative way.

Before working in cannabis, she had two very unique sets of skills: experience as an office manager, and experience as a horticulturist at a tropical greenhouse. 

A quick first glance at her resume, you might miss how these two very different work backgrounds would apply to her current position as a cannabis compliance manager. But take a closer look and you’ll see that Tiffany’s unique skill sets made her the ideal candidate for a cannabis auditor, which led to her post as cannabis compliance manager.

BEFORE CANNABIS

What were you doing before working in cannabis?

Before I entered the cannabis industry, I was working as an office manager, which gave me a lot of bookkeeping experience. I had also worked at a local tropical greenhouse.  I had a unique set of skills because I had accounting and bookkeeping experience, and agricultural experience. My agricultural background and bookkeeping experience blended and transferred perfectly to my first job in cannabis as an auditor.

The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is a popular carnivorous plant. Photo credit: University of Tasmania

What skills did you gain from those jobs that prepared you for your cannabis compliance job?

Inventory. When I was growing for a tropical greenhouse, I was in charge of six different crops. Including, streptocarpus, citrus, passiflora, and carnivorous plants. I would look at what the customer demand was projected to be. I would need to know how much stock was required for next Christmas and how long it would take the plants to mature in time for Christmas. Then, I would use that knowledge to know when to take plant cuttings and start growing the plant. I would take care of the mother plants, take cuttings, mold them, prune them, put them in the inventory, and make sure they were ready for sale. Plants take time to mature. You can’t generate products quickly like, for example, a t-shirt company. So you need to plan ahead and keep track of everything. I needed to start preparing some plants for Christmas 10 months in advance.

The organization and attention to detail needed in bookkeeping translates well to cannabis compliance.

Bookkeeping. When I was an office manager, I gained strong bookkeeping skills. I was incharge of managing accounts receivable, accounts payable, shipping and receiving. I was a Jane of all trades around the office. Multitasking and counting were core parts of my previous positions, just as they are in my current position. In cannabis, the state needs everything to be logged and recorded accurately which my previous positions prepared me for.

Horticulture. At the tropical greenhouse, I was involved in the production schedule, mapping out what we were going to need, and counting to see if there was enough material to meet the demand. Then I took care of everything as a grower.

What drew you to the cannabis industry?

I believe that for such a long time, cannabis has been inappropriately villainized. We see it with the War on Drugs. And we see our prison systems inundated with people who are disproportionately affected

Even some people who are supporters of cannabis still have the stigma ingrained in them. For example, my dad is an old school deadhead hippie, and I remember having the conversation with him back in 2013. I was writing a college paper about the legalization of cannabis and all the benefits that will come from legalization. And even my dad, who was always a cannabis consumer, did not believe it would happen. My parents who were both cannabis supporters, would still call it “the devil’s lettuce” from time to time. Because the stigma was just so ingrained. My dad thought it would never happen. But now, people are empowered and are taking the plant back. For me, I love being a part of this new and emerging industry. And I want to be a part of changing the stigma and giving respect back to the plant.

A collection of Reefer Madness posters from the late 20th century.

THE TRANSITION

At my first cannabis job, I was an auditor and then a compliance manager for a grow site and a lab. In my new position, I’m the compliance manager for two grow sites, a lab, a kitchen, and three retail stores. It’s been a step up and moving my career ahead.

How did bookkeeping prepare you for being a cannabis auditor?

When you’re counting 12,000 plants and keeping track of every single one, counting is a skill. In my first cannabis position as an auditor, I would make sure that the physical count matched the digital count. If “Flower Room 1” had 600 plants, I would go into the Flower Room 1 and make sure that there were indeed 600 plants. It involved doing that for about 14 different flower rooms, a veg (vegetative) room, and a clone room. The Cannabis Control Commission in Massachusetts doesn’t give any leeway. If you say you have 10 plants, you better have 10 plants. It was my job to make sure that our inventory was exactly what we say it is. If the numbers are off, then the repercussions are fines and investigations. We want to avoid any fines and investigations over what could be just a misunderstanding.

A woman plants lisianthus seedlings in a greenhouse in early spring at Pasture Song Farm in Pottstown, PA. Photo credit: Zoe Schaeffer

What is a cannabis compliance manager?

Being an auditor was the foundation for what I do now as a cannabis compliance manager. As an auditor, I was only doing plant counts. 

When I stepped into the role of a cannabis compliance manager, I had to learn the regulations and help enforce regulations throughout the entire business. It’s my job to know the regulations and make sure the company is operating in compliance. It involves not just looking at plants, but also going into the lab and making sure all of the finished product is there.

Massachusetts regulations are comprised of two regulatory documents. One for medical, and one for recreational. Each document is about 160 pages long. It covers everything from: 

  • How to grow and what you need to do
  • The state tracking system
  • Lab testing
  • Delivery
  • What has to go on your packaging
  • What has to be on your labeling

So when I first stepped into the role of a cannabis compliance manager, I had to read through and learn both the medical and regulations documents.

I manage a team of auditors working beneath me. So I make sure that they are doing their monthly auditing.

What else do you do as a cannabis compliance manager?

At my current company, I am utilized everywhere. I have my hand in everything. I go to two different cultivation sites which each have a lab and a kitchen. And then there are three retail stores. I get to go to all locations. 

I also go to the retail dispensaries and help educate the budtenders. I train them and answer questions about the process before the products get to the dispensary, including:

  • Seed-to-sale tracking system
  • Labeling questions
  • Retail and wholesale
A budtender helps a customer at the Cultivate Mass dispensary in Worcester, MA. Photo Credit: Cultivate Mass

Is there anything that surprised you about being a cannabis compliance manager?

The amount of computer work was new and unexpected, but it has really helped level up my skills. I am the liaison between the seed-to-sale tracking system and the company. If somebody has a question about Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting & Compliance (METRC), I am the person with the answers. Before this position, I had basic computer skills (excel, word, quickbooks). But I went to seminars to learn how to work METRC. Now, I am the go-to person. 

Metrc tags, clipped to each individual plant, provide end-to-end tracking of the cannabis supply chain, from seed to sale. Photo credit: Metrc

I work with independent testing labs to review certificates of analysis (COAs). I look at the COAs that come back and create a cannabinoid calculator so that we can be sure we’re putting the right test results on our products.

What was the transition like? Is there anything that supported you during your transition to the cannabis industry?

I was always self-educating myself about the industry and the plants. When I was in college I wrote a paper about the legalization of cannabis. I was involved in horticulture. So between my interest in cannabis and my horticulture experience, I felt like I had good background knowledge on the industry and the plant. 

There was so much valuable information and knowledge that I had “in the closet” for so long. It took some time to adjust to the fact that I could openly talk about knowledge that, previously, “I wasn’t supposed to know.” And that I could finally bring that information out and apply it to my job. 

There was a lot of on-the-job training. Not necessarily about the plant, but more so about state regulations. I had never read about state regulations. So to have to sit down, and read and dissect a 160 page document was very daunting. 

Dealing with the stigma

I realized how much the stigma had ingrained itself and affected my own beliefs. I had to adjust to not worrying about smelling like cannabis. 

I remember pulling up to work a few months after starting my first cannabis job, getting a whiff of cannabis, and my first instinctive thought was, “Who is smoking at work?” Then I would remember, “Oh wait, this is my job, it’s okay.” And when you’re working at a cultivation facility, you smell like cannabis when you leave work. So when I would stop at the grocery store after work, I would remind myself, “It’s okay that I reek of cannabis, this is my legal job, it’s okay, I’m legally doing this.” I did not have to worry about anyone telling my employer, because my employer made me smell this way.

What’s one thing that everyone should know before transitioning to the cannabis industry?

Don’t let not having experience be daunting. It’s such a new industry and there are so many people migrating from other fields. And they’re all necessary. But also don’t let the experience from your old industry overshadow the cannabis industry. For example, integrated pest management (IPM) in the greenhouse work is different than if you’re working in an office building. The field is so new that you can take your outside skills and tweak them to work in the cannabis industry.

“I was contacted by a FlowerHire recruiter, Ian Keilty, and he told me about a position available that I would be a great fit for. Working with FlowerHire was one of the most seamless, smoothest hirings I’ve ever had. Even when I received an offer from the company, I was able to run it by Ian. Ian was a great sounding board and resource for me.” – Tiffany Pulliam, Cannabis Compliance Manager at Cultivate Mass.

FlowerHire is a cannabis recruiting agency that helps candidates find how their current skill sets can apply to a new job in the cannabis industry. 

Reach out to a cannabis recruiter to find out how your skills can apply to the rapidly growing cannabis industry.

In the meantime, you can read this blog posts to help prepare yourself for finding a job in the cannabis industry:


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