Can the cannabis industry lead from the front?

3 min readMay 17, 2022
Teams tending to the plant (Image: Canva)

Passion, team work and community are at the heart of the cannabis industry. People work in this industry because they love it. They love the plant, its healing properties, and the hands-on nature of the work. But despite this, the industry has a high staff turnover rate of 40–60% in the first two months, and we estimate this is costing $USD 1 billion per year.

But what factors make up this cost to the industry?

Across the industry, operational standards and systems are lacking, and consequently teams are not getting the support they need. There are some decent education and training systems being built from Oaksterdam University, Green Flower and the Cannabis Training University. These initiatives are a good start for building basic capability in workers in the industry, but are not sufficient for the long term knowledge and skills transfer that the industry needs in order to keep growing sustainably.

These solutions also aren’t dealing with the urgent issues that teams face once inside the industry, which are major contributors to high turnover rates. Managers and their teams carry huge responsibilities in their jobs, often with low pay, and no adequate systems to support them. Teams are also not getting recognised for their grit, or the results of their hard work.

They are working long hours, are chronically stressed, or getting burnt out. The two most commonly cited reasons for leaving a job are a lack of job structure and a lack of recognition.

When you have a billion dollar company in your hands, you need to make sure nothing goes wrong. I had to take a year off work after four years. You work 16 hours a day and you’re literally in charge of every plant. It’s a lot of work” — Jennifer Medina.

Frontline teams are bearing the brunt of under-resourced management and a lack of systems to support them. But one of the great benefits of a nascent industry is we have the chance to shape it. To lead from the front. As the industry booms, it is crucial that we learn how to retain talent and attract more. We need to make sure we solve these problems now.

A culture of continuous improvement is already in the psyche of many teams, because of the passion and community that the industry was founded on. But being able to standardize this approach across the industry is vital to its future growth. When systems, transparency and communication are valued and implemented by good leaders, strong teams and a high performance culture can thrive. We need to give teams more effective support to elevate their performance, without relying on the existing pride and passion for the crop that has kept the industry afloat up to now.

What does this look like? Teams need greater visibility over their operations, better ways to communicate, a system for taking timely actions, and delivering insights about production and team performance. Teams need to be supported by not only management, but have the appropriate tools and technology in place for planning and implementation at scale.

And the results of standardised and effective support for teams extend beyond just the warm and fuzzies. There is a bottom line advantage to building supportive and high performing cultures. Companies that invest in their people can grow their profitability by up to 24%, and reduce unnecessary costs in more recruitment, training and the constant loss of corporate knowledge.

We predict that the highest performing companies in the industry will be those that are focused on their teams and systems. Will yours be one of them?




Blakthumb is a software company that provides an intuitive operating system for production teams in cannabis and food.