When a cannabis or ag startup ramps up its hiring, it’s obviously a good sign. A smart company can double or triple its workforce in the first few years, especially those who are venture-backed. But (there’s always a but, isn’t there?) a runaway train effect can occur which can deeply affect the trajectory of your business. Here are some cannabis and ag startup hiring tools to remember when the hiring process begins to escalate.  


1. The Employee Handbook

A company-wide code of conduct is crucial to the success of your cannabis and ag startup. Sure, it sounds pretty boring at face value. But in reality, an official employee handbook defines the company’s culture and shapes its direction. It also details what it takes to qualify for upcoming positions. And ultimately, it makes your job easier, especially when new employees join the team.

Luckily, you don’t have to start from scratch. There a ton of free resources out there to make this job easier.  Here’s an example.

The average employee handbook opens with some background of the cannabis and ag startup as well as a mission statement or other workplace philosophies. The meat of the handbook contains office hours, dress code (or lack thereof), vacation days, benefits, salary, grounds for termination and so on.

An employee handbook for your cannabis startup should also include willing compliance with laws related to employment practices such as Title VII, the ADEA and the ADA.  

These laws pertain to:

  •      Employment at will
  •      Equal employment opportunity
  •      Discrimination
  •      Sexual and other workplace harassment
  •      Disabled employees and reasonable accommodations
  •      Procedures for reporting, investigating and resolving employee complaints

It’s also becoming increasing important to include an information security and social media policy, detailing the do’s and don’ts of employee behavior on social media. (This could also help limit liability on the E&O, cyber and media liability front.)


2. Hiring Policies

It’s critical to have a clean and concise hiring policy in place. Thanks to the Google gods, there are a ton of tools out there to guide you. (Here’s an example).   

The goal of a hiring policy? To set solid guidelines for prospecting, qualifying and hiring new employees. This document should contain clear guidelines for the entire process: from the moment a prospect is being considered until the first day of work.  

Here are other points to consider:

  •  The interview process
  • How  job openings are posted and advertised
  • Hiring prerequisites
  • Background checks
  • How a job offer is presented
  • Necessary paperwork, post-offer and pre-orientation


3. Termination Policies

Nothing can bring out the crazy in people like being fired. No matter the size or stature of the cannabis company, wrongful termination can be a serious risk for a “budding” cannabis company.

It’s essential that cannabis and ag startups have ironclad procedures in place. This includes: warnings and violations leading up to termination, when termination is appropriate and (last but not least), the manner in which the termination is carried out.  

For instance, it’s important to have well-structured access revocation procedures in place so that a fired employee doesn’t destroy your company from the inside out (it happens). It’s also important to differentiate between termination for cause and without cause. (Here’s a good place to start.)


4. Employment Practices Liability Insurance

Employment practices liability insurance is exactly what you’d expect: insurance that protects your cannabis and ag startup if and when it violates proper employment practices.

EPL insurance can be utilized for a number of claim scenarios, such as discriminatory hiring/firing practices, wrongful termination, alleged violations of employment statutes, sexual harassment and more.  As cannabis and ag startups crossover the 10+ employee threshold, EPL insurance should definitely be a go-to safeguard.


5. Outsourcing

The clerical tasks associated managing employees and running payroll can be a massive time-suck. Cannabis and ag startups would be well served by outsourcing some of the HR work when there’s increased hiring. There are a plethora of platforms and service providers (Gusto, for example) available to automate running payroll and onboarding new employees.



For most cannabis and ag startups, this list of tools to employ during an increase in hiring is a solid starting point. Companies that implement these instructions early will be poised to scale rapidly and confidently.


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