That’s Dope! Colorado Casino Workers Fast-Tracked For Marijuana Industry Jobs

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As countless casino workers across the country find themselves suddenly furloughed or unemployed in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, the state of Colorado has created a potential pathway for them to find jobs. Last week, the state’s Department of Revenue revamped its rules adding an emergency clause that allows licensed casino workers to forgo a background check for a job in the marijuana industry.

The temporary rule, which went into effect on April 1, could allow for at least some of the thousands of currently unemployed Colorado casino workers to earn a paycheck. The rule is in effect for 120 days or until the Colorado emergency coronavirus executive order is rescinded or withdrawn, and applies to those seeking an “Employee License” or an “Identification Badge.” Should a casino employee choose to work in the marijuana industry on a permanent basis (s)he would have to apply for an MED license once the temporary rule expires.

Colorado retail casinos were shut down on March 17. The current order in place would keep them shuttered until at least April 30 — one day before the state must be ready for operators to go live with sports betting.

Emergency rule borne of stakeholder suggestions

“The decision to allow licensed gaming employees (who undergo similar background checks as MED employees) to work in the marijuana industry during this unprecedented time serves as another example of our stakeholder collaboration process,” Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) spokesperson Shannon Gray told COBets via e-mail. “Discussions about this option were prompted by suggestions from members of both the marijuana industry and gaming industry, with a focus on ensuring the Division is considering all viable options for businesses to maintain continuity of operations that are consistent with social distancing requirements.”

According to a Denver Post story, the idea to shift workers from one highly regulated sector to another came out of working groups involving members of both industries. Just how many available positions in the cannabis industry are available is an unknown. Both industries are subject to strict regulation, and employees undergo rigorous background checks before being able to be considered for employment in either sector.

“I do know that the application process and clearance that you need in the cannabis industry in Colorado is fairly intensive,” said Morgan Fox, media relations director of National Cannabis Industry Association. “Because it has been recognized increasingly as a healthcare and economic necessity, there are some situations where (businesses) might need to staff up.”

While the industries may seem to have little in common, Fox suggested that there is crossover in most businesses on the administrative side, so licensed casino workers who have operations experience in such areas as accounting, office management, security or the like could potentially make a seamless transition from one industry to the other. Casino workers could also be good fits in cultivation departments.

“Being vigilant and having attention to detail (is key) in both industries,” Fox said. “There is so much oversight.”

Decision made to streamline new hires

No matter the specific position, the temporary rule saves marijuana businesses the waiting period normally required to vet potential employees.

According to guidelines from the MED, casino employees can work in any regulated marijuana business, and both the potential employee and employer must contact the MED prior to employment.

“The approach takes into account the impacts of COVID-19 on other regulated industries, specifically the Gaming Industry, with licensees also regulated by the Department who are continuing to seek employment opportunities during this challenging time,” Gray said.

Jill has covered everything from steeplechase to the NFL and then some during a more than 30-year career in sports journalism. The highlight of her career was covering Oakland Raiders during the Charles Woodson/Jon Gruden era, including the infamous “Snow Bowl” and the Raiders’ 2003 trip to Super Bowl XXXVII. Her specialty these days is covering sports betting legislation across the country.

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