Employment and Cannabis: Catching Up with Shawnee Williams
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Employment and Cannabis: In this Cannabis Community interview, Founder Abraham Villegas catches up with Shawnee Williams, Recruiter at Illinois Equity Staffing, to catch up on life, the post-covid world around us, and recent questions our community members have around jobs and cannabis.
Hi Shawnee! Thanks so much for taking the time to join us today. So excited to have you back on.
1) Tell us (personally) what have you been up to in 2021?
Well, personally didn’t exist too much for me in 2021.
I gave birth to my son Josiah in April, and I’ve been working to balance that motherhood and entrepreneurship.
2) As a parent and entrepreneur, what does a day in your life look like these days?
My days are nonstop, and rest isn’t really a luxury I have anymore. Unfortunately, my son went into daycare very early because of the need to run the business, but it’s been great for him to participate in socialization during a pandemic. I used to be able to work non-stop throughout the day, but as soon as the little guy gets home, he’s the boss until he falls asleep. I try to sneak and work overnight sometimes but it’s hit or miss.
I find myself trying to juggle what I can afford to do physically. I suffer from Lupus, Sjogren’s, and Hypothyroidism and just got over a terrible bout of COVID-19, so most days the decisions I make and tasks I prioritize honestly have to do with if I have the energy to get it done. I’m pretty sure that’s all parents (entrepreneur or not).
3) Recently, there was a discussion in the community where a patient had a government job offer rescinded after testing positive for cannabis, despite having a valid medical card. What other challenges have you seen as it relates to employment as a cannabis patient, or consumer? How about as a justice-impacted individual?
(can you shed light on IL workplace laws for example, perhaps touch on other states and/or federal?)
As cannabis becomes more prevalent in the mainstream community, these situations become more common. When it comes to government jobs, however, those are hard and fast rules. A lot of people mention ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance but it’s tricky because some folks qualify for a medical card but don’t have an illness covered under ADA and don’t have an official disability status. In normal private sector roles, the policies have loosened since 2019 and especially now during the Great Resignation. It’s a candidate’s market and employers are competing for talent.
As such, employers appear more attractive if they have less stringent rules/policies on legalized drugs. I often put it candidates like this: “Do you really want to work for an employer who tries to control your cannabis use?” – Typically the answer is “no”. That type of control in 2022 is foreboding of a negative work environment (exceptions are public safety or operating heavy machinery obviously).
The biggest slap in the face yet across the entire country is these legalization bills pass and everyone thinks there are equity and diversity measures to level the playing field. But I’d save 90% of the legalized states make it very difficult for justice-impacted candidates to get badged for a plant-touching cannabis company. These very people carried the legacy market for the last what, 40-50 years, and the states didn’t think they should be leading the legalized market?? It’s the most asinine aspect of this industry and quite frankly, I plan to do whatever I can to change that.
4) In addition to jobs at cannabis dispensaries, what other employment opportunities are you seeing more of in 2022, and what is your advice to job seekers?
With some of the grow/infuser licensees ramping up for 2022-2023, I’m seeing some opportunities for consultants to help with strategy, formulation, marketing, etc. I also think there will be some opportunities in the public sector in cannabis for those interested in compliance and programming. We’ll hopefully start to see grow and processing roles in the Chicagoland area and logistics may be up and coming if we can support our transportation licensees properly.
My advice if you’re wanting to work in the cannabis industry is to go to events (live and/or virtual), network, nurture your networking relationships, volunteer with cannabis organizations, revamp your resume, get active on LinkedIn and find a mentor.
Thanks so much for your insights!
5) What are you working on this year, and where can people follow along to learn more?
We are heavily focused on our 2nd Chance Initiative. It’s super important that we continue to raise awareness about the disregard of justice impacted people in a vice industry that honestly has no justifiable reason to ostracize them. We’ll be working in Chicago and hopefully other legalized markets to expand the initiative and get some laws amended. We also plan to get into the religious community this year as well. Our team is really excited for the community outreach and you can connect with us on Instagram or LinkedIn.
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