Employee Background Checks | A Dispensary Owner's Guide

October 28, 2022

The cannabis industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the world. Given its prior designation as a dangerous drug, many US states (and some Canadian provinces) are nervous about its existence. When it comes to the people involved in the cannabis industry, this is no different, as there are deep employee background checks required to get a license.

But as a dispensary owner, the rules for running these background checks are tricky. Do you need to run employee background checks on new dispensary employees? Are these checks for those who handle the drugs, or do they include support staff? What states or provinces require (or don't require) them?

The answers to these questions aren't always clear. So, this article is for you if you want to demystify background checks for dispensaries. Let's dive in.

Do all dispensaries need to run background checks on budtenders?

No, not all dispensaries need to run background checks on new budtenders. Typically, these background checks are required to get a cannabis career license. Running a background check is often optional in states where these checks are already required to gain the permit.

A budtender certification, alongside other state and provincial cannabis permits, includes built-in background checks. This situation often applies to those needing product knowledge, such as budtenders, managers, and owners.

By comparison, support staff might not need the same level of product knowledge. For example, bookkeepers don't need to know anything about cannabis to do their job well. However, some general knowledge might help them better categorize financial transactions.

This situation also applies to many marketers, website builders, and copywriters. These groups don't handle direct sales and customer information, so they do not need a budtender certification. However, product knowledge still benefits people in these positions, even if they don't need a certificate.

resume for cannabis

Can you still work at a dispensary if you have a record?

You can still work at a dispensary if you have a criminal record. However, that record generally cannot include any felony-level offenses. Felony offenses prevent you from gaining the necessary certifications to work in customer-facing and management positions at dispensaries.

If you are a dispensary owner, those certified in product-touching positions have already proven they don't have a felony conviction. You don't have to worry about double-checking state or province-certified individuals. Instead, you might check with recognized bodies on their license validity.

The support staff of a dispensary does not have the same licenses and background requirements as budtenders. So, owners performing background checks on these individuals is understandable and often necessary. Most owners do not like to hire employees with a history of criminal activity.

Many owners want to include background checks with all positions, taking the cautionary side (certification or not). This is because a background check does more than verify someone's criminal record.

What is a background check?

A background check is performed by people, companies, and other organizations to verify someone's criminal record, education, employment history, and identity. These checks are standard when someone applies for a job, but can also occur for continued employment screening after the initial hiring.

It is wise to conduct a background check on new budtenders because it verifies more than their criminal activity. You can confirm employee claims about their education and career experience through this check. Most state or provincial certification programs don't check this information. 

Because the state or province has no incentive to regulate employees' honesty, it's up to the employers to check them out. As an owner, paying for a background check is an excellent way to test a prospective employee's character. You usually don't want someone who lies about their past to join your organization, as that might be a sign of what they will conceal in the future. 

How do you run a background check?

As an owner, your first step in the background check process is to gain consent from the potential employee. From there, your background check needs to submit to your state for approval. Most businesses hire background check companies to expedite the process. 

First, it's important to note that many types of background checks exist. Below are a few of the more common examples:

  • National criminal record checks - These checks look through a potential employee's misdemeanor or federal criminal history on a national level. These checks limit themselves to a national region (Canada, the US, etc.) 
  • International checks - Overseas work will generally include an international background check to see a person's history worldwide. These checks are generally much more detailed but ideal for verifying overseas hires' information. 
  • Education and employment history verification - These checks verify a prospective hire's employment and educational history. 
  • Driving record checks - These checks specifically focus on traffic violations of a prospective employee. 
  • Pre-employment drug screening - There is a generic drug test to determine whether a person's prescribed medications make them suitable for your position. Typically, these tests are limited to those who operate motor vehicles or heavy machinery. 
  • Credit reports - These reports verify the financial history of a potential hire. These checks are generally left to employees in financial management positions. 

The more checks you do, the more it costs. As a result, employers are picky about what screenings they do. For example, you wouldn't pull up a person's driving history if they aren't going to drive a company vehicle. 

The checks also need to make sense for the position. You wouldn't check the credit report of a budtender, even if they handle cash. These tests are better for accountants and those who manage finances. Asking for every background check, regardless of position, might be seen as invasive. Sometimes, you might break state or federal regulations through unnecessary background checks. 

For example, "ban the box" prevents employers from asking about criminal history questions on an initial job application form. These policies are said to give a fair chance to applicants, regardless of previous convictions. This prevents employers from immediately throwing out a resume based on criminal history, causing them to think twice about hiring an employee. 

When deciding against an employee based on their criminal record, these ban-the-box states refer to this decision as an "adverse action." When taking an adverse action (rejecting, terminating, or reassigning an employee), you need to justify this decision, provide a copy of the background check, and give the employee a rights summary of what they can do as a result of the decision.  

employee background checks

What software can you use to do a background check?

The best software for a background check includes criminal, employment, history, education, driving, and financial history. You can keep your background checks on a single platform by getting software that provides a comprehensive solution. This feature prevents you from needing to switch between multiple services. 

Below are a few popular examples you can use:

  • Turn is an AI-driven platform that offers same-day background checks. Their claim to fame is reducing hiring times by 73%. 
  • ScreeningCanada is a Canadian-focused business that offers background reports and new employee screening services. The automated screening platform focuses on compliance with Canadian laws. 
  • Certn is an automated background-checking service that has excellent reviews across review sites like G2 and Capterra. They offer a comprehensive list of background checks, including those we listed above. 
  • Checkr is a unique, employee-driven background review service. It provides expungement in California, which supports customers in removing incorrect data from their criminal records. 

What shows up on a background check?

What shows up on a background check depends on your type of check. Any criminal or traffic check will note active or pending arrests and convictions related to a misdemeanor or felony offense. Meanwhile, other background checks might include employment history, current prescription drugs, and education. 

Here's the complete list of what you might spot on a background check:

  • Pending or active criminal offenses (tax evasion, possession of drugs, murder, etc.) 
  • Verification of past employment, education, and any professional licenses (including active medical or recreational marijuana licenses) 
  • Pending or active civil offenses (workplace discrimination, car accidents, etc.) 
  • Active or pending driving convictions (failure to yield, driving under the influence, etc.)
  • Historical data (where you have lived, all past interactions you've had with law enforcement) 
  • Drug screening (includes a drug test and list of current prescription drugs taken) 
  • A full credit report (includes current and past loans, any missed payments, and a comprehensive financial profile) 

Typically, a background check done at a dispensary will be limited to criminal history, education, and employment. Data beyond this is often unnecessary unless the employee works for a support staff that requires special permissions. 

For example, lab testers must follow stringent, high-intensity requirements and use delicate equipment. As a result, taking medication that results in brain fog might not make them safe for the position. You can also say the same for driving vehicles and having a poor motor vehicle report (MVR). 

lady on a computer

How long does a background check take?

A background check will generally take a minimum of two weeks. These checks can take longer when the employee has a deep, complicated background or you need to perform multiple checks. Background checks often take up to a month for hires with complex backgrounds. 

Below is a breakdown of how long it takes to complete a background check:

  • Employment verification - two or more days
  • Professional certification verification - one or two days
  • Education verification - four or more days 
  • Criminal history background checks - one or two days 
  • Credit checks - two or more days 
  • Driving reviews - two or more days 
  • International examinations - 20 or more days 

We mentioned some software that can help save you some time. Regardless, their automated features can start the process earlier. Nevertheless, you'll still need to wait a while before getting most of these back. 

International checks often require you to hire specialist companies. These don't fall under standard background checks, as hiring overseas can be expensive. 

Once you get through these tests and determine you've found a good match, you'll want to have a detailed onboarding process, which is a big part of employee retention

What software can help with hiring and onboarding budtenders?

Ideally, you should get hiring and onboarding software that helps you throughout the process. This includes hiring, scheduling, interviewing, data tracking, and payroll. By handing this duty off to a system that handles it for you, you can focus on growing your business. 

A great piece of software that can help you with hiring and onboarding is KayaPush. KayaPush enables you to handle dispensary hiring, interviewing, tracking, data storage, and license information to ensure you remain federally and locally compliant. This platform gives you a centralized location for all your personnel management needs. 

Next steps after a background check:

Once you are done with any background check, you'll have to decide what to do with this information. If you find a criminal history, you might use that as a deciding factor in employment. Any dishonesty will also affect your decision on whether to hire someone new. 

A comprehensive budtender onboarding checklist can help you make consistent decisions for new employment. If you decide why you won't hire someone (your dealbreakers) before you review the screening results, you can be decisive in your actions. Using software like KayaPush can help you track results and dealbreakers.

Discuss the decision-making process of hiring or declining with other business owners. A big of insight will give you the confidence to make these decisions. 

But above all, be sure you follow state, provincial, and federal guidelines on employee checks — failure to comply results in some messy situations. With these tips, you can be confident in selecting the best employees. 

Want to learn more about dispensary hiring? Download our free guide below!

dispensary hiring guide

Table of content

October 2022


Want to learn more about dispensary software management?

Meet the cannabis dispensary software that will save you time and money



per week



to run payroll


saved yearly

Hear what our customers have to say

“KayaPush has it all in one platform where you can kind of build what you need. Especially as a start-up, that’s important to us to be cost-friendly. You have the best price for what you’re offering. ”

-Marry Ann from Riverside Wellness-

Easiest to Use
Spring 2022
High Performer
Spring 2022
Best Usability
Spring 2022
Easiest Setup
Spring 2022
Trusted Vendor
Quality Choice

Easily and quickly scale your dispensary with the all-in-one solution

Get a Demo Call!

You Might Also Like

Weeding Out the Best: 24 Must-Ask Budtender Interview Questions

Find Out More

Streamlining Dispensary Hiring: 7 Tips to Enhance Your Recruitment Process

Find Out More

The Future of Budtender Onboarding: 4 Benefits of Digital Onboarding

Find Out More