News and Best Practices

Pre-Employment Screenings Protect You and the Industry

December 20, 2016

As a dispensary owner or manager, you want to hire the right employees for the job. But how do you know whether or not they have criminal records and other “red flags”? Does your state or local government require you to conduct a background check on potential hires? And if so, how thorough does it need to be?

Alan T. Sklar, President of Creative Services, Inc., is well-acquainted with the unique considerations required for hiring in the cannabis industry. CSI, which is based in Mansfield, Mass., has more than five years of experience working with cannabis businesses, and is a subject matter expert in the industry, he said. In addition to other services, the firm conducts pre-employment screenings for state-legal cannabis companies.

Alan T. Sklar (Courtesy: Creative Services, Inc.)

Alan T. Sklar (Courtesy: Creative Services, Inc.)

What’s in a screening?

A pre-employment screening provides an exhaustive report of an applicant’s background. It gathers data from a variety of sources, including:

  • A Social Security trace, which identifies all the addresses where the applicant has lived for the last seven years, as well as any aliases associated with the applicant’s Social Security number. A trace can also identify if the number is linked with another person or listed on the death index, Sklar said.
  • A criminal records search in county, state and federal jurisdictions in which the applicant lived for at least the last seven years.
  • A civil records search at the local and federal levels. If there’s not enough evidence to prosecute a defendant in criminal court, it’s not uncommon for the case to go to civil court, Sklar said. A civil records search, then, can provide information not available in criminal records. In these searches, investigators are looking for allegations of breach of contract, fraud and so on.
  • An investigation into any professional licenses the applicant holds to ensure they are valid, accurate, up-to-date and free of disciplinary actions.
  • A search of the National Criminal Locator, a database that acts as a kind of safety net to identify any information not uncovered by other searches. For example, if an applicant was arrested for a crime outside of their state of residence, that information won’t appear on the criminal records search—which examines records connected with the applicant’s prior addresses only. This step also includes a search of the National Sex Offender Registry. At Sklar’s firm, any hits that come up in this search are investigated to validate that they relate to the applicant. “We don’t provide any information unless we have validated it,” he said.
  • A restricted party search, which checks the applicant’s information against a database that identifies people on wanted lists and watch lists within and outside the U.S.

When conducting a pre-employment screening on applicants for the cannabis industry, CSI also runs a cannabis professionals license compliance check, confirming with the licensing authority from prior states where the applicant has worked. It also taps into the Fraud and Abuse Control Information Systems and the National Practitioner Data Bank, both of which report on professionals in the healthcare industry. This is particularly useful for examining applicants at a medical dispensary.

A pre-employment screening is conducted with the applicant’s consent, Sklar said, and applicants are encouraged to disclose any pertinent information on their own.

“We always provide release forms to our clients that ask for self-disclosure by the applicant,” Sklar said. “We want them to self-disclose.” He added that information in the applicant’s self-disclosure is compared with the results from the Social Security trace.

Some regulations may require businesses to conduct re-investigations of their employees on a regular basis, while others do not. “We recommend re-investigations,” he said, regardless of what the law states.

‘As honest as possible’

Why should you consider a pre-employment screening for your potential hires? One compelling reason is the law. Some states or local entities have regulations that govern the level of background check that businesses are required to conduct on potential hires. They should also develop background screening policies, which are updated whenever the regulations change, Sklar said.

Pre-employment screenings can help protect both your business and the cannabis industry itself by ensuring that only the best quality candidates get hired. He emphasized that this is one area where investors in cannabis businesses can’t afford to take shortcuts.

“We want to keep the industry as honest as possible,” he said. Given the fact that cannabis is still federally illegal, it’s imperative that the industry avoids hiring employees with a criminal history, Sklar added.

“I want to make sure that this industry is taking care of itself and policing itself,” he said.

By Bridget Manley
Dispensary Management Today articles are for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal guidance or advice on dispensary operations. You should contact an attorney or a qualified cannabis consultant for specific compliance and dispensary/retailing advice.
© 2016 CAN Performance Group, LLC. All rights reserved.
Sign Up for Cannabis Cultivation Today

© 2017 CAN Performance Group, LLC. All rights reserved.