H2 Talent Launches to Serve Marijuana Industry

With pot becoming legal in an increasing number of states, the expanding sector faces a strong need for talent. In Colorado, arguably ground zero for the cannabis industry, a new search firm is focused on building leadership teams that will take businesses to new highs. Here’s our exclusive report. Welcome to 2019!

January 2, 2019 – Talent deficits exist in every field. But the marijuana industry is exceptionally short on senior-level leaders who can come in and cross-pollinate their functional and sector skill-sets. H2 Talent in Boulder, CO, is the latest recruiting entrant to serve cannabis companies looking for senior talent.

The search firm was launched specifically to provide C-suite and executive recruiting services to the cannabis industry. It is co-founded by John Comeau of recruiting firm C-Level Search, and Jay Czarkowski and Michelle Whitmore, both of management consulting firm Canna Advisors.

“My interest in the cannabis industry was first piqued when I posted a COO position for a cannabis technology company on LinkedIn and received more than 4,000 interested inquiries over a five-month period,” said Mr. Comeau. “Smart cannabis businesses need access to the best talent available, whether they come from inside or outside the industry, and experienced business leaders are eager for cannabis opportunities. With our relationships and expertise, H2 is perfectly positioned to make the win-win connections that lead to long-term success.”

The Founders

Mr. Comeau has been repeatedly recognized as one of the country’s leading recruiters, with C-Level Search being named by LinkedIn as the 24th “Most Socially Engaged Staffing Agency in North America.” Prior to launching his firm in 2006, he was an executive recruiter with Global Employment Solutions in Chicago.

Mr. Czarkowski is nationally known as an entrepreneur, investor, advocate and visionary leader in the cannabis industry. Currently celebrating its fifth anniversary year, his firm Canna Advisors has provided business consulting services to clients in 29 states.

Ms. Whitmore’s background is rooted in emerging technologies and includes serving as head of HR and talent acquisition for Sega of America. She is also an expert at the art of constructing corporate culture.

H2 Talent focuses on recruiting and placing executive, C-level and integral operations roles. The firm uniquely prioritizes pre-license-application services, working with clients before and during the application process to ensure that every role required for a license application is filled by a well-qualified and well-vetted candidate.

“Through Canna Advisors’ extensive experience working with cannabis license applicants, we’ve learned that pre-license recruiting is a critical need for nearly everyone,” said Mr. Czarkowski. “We know how to put together the slate of subject-matter experts an applicant needs to make their application stand out in any evaluation process.”

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“Our goal is to be a true strategic partner to our business clients,” said Ms. Whitmore. “We’re not just filling a job. We’re helping each client build a leadership team and craft a culture that will shape the entire future of their organization.”

The firm’s three founders sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media over the holidays to provide a closer look at the booming marijuana industry – and to discuss why senior-level executives are looking to this sector to expand their professional careers.


Give us an overview of the marijuana industry and its likely impact.

Czarkowski: The cannabis industry is the fastest growing industry in the U.S., and the world. From a medical standpoint, cannabis is successfully treating illnesses that mainstream pharma medications cannot help with. And, now that research into cannabis is becoming easier, we will see more medical formulations and treatments become available. Pharmaceutical medication use typically drops in states with a robust medical cannabis program.

Whitmore: Adults are also using cannabis more as a safer alternative to alcohol. Alcohol consumption typically goes down in states with legal cannabis programs. And that doesn’t even factor in hemp.

Comeau: The U.S. has been the only industrialized nation in the world to prohibit the growing and processing of hemp. That is changing, and a robust hemp industry is now developing alongside the cannabis industry.

“As the cannabis industry has matured, cannabis companies are struggling to find C-suite level talent. Talent needs have become more sophisticated and people have tapped out their immediate networks.” 

What led to the creation of H2 Talent and why is now the right time to launch the firm?

Czarkowski: I realized several years ago that there would be a great need to source talent for the cannabis industry. The sector continues to grow at a rapid pace, and there is a great need to pull in expertise from outside the cannabis industry, and there are opportunities to pull experienced people out of existing positions within the industry. The industry has matured enough that companies need to get serious about their senior and executive talent to move to the next level.

Comeau: As the cannabis industry has matured, cannabis companies are struggling to find C-suite level talent. Talent needs have become more sophisticated and people have tapped out their immediate networks.

Whitmore: We recognize that businesses must have the right mix of veteran industry experience plus outside business world success. The combination of Jay’s cannabis industry knowledge and connections, the long-running successful and disruptive executive recruiting of John and myself, combined with my emphasis and experience in building corporate culture, all work together to attract and place talent into our clients’ companies.

Discuss the current market for senior executives in the marijuana industry.

Comeau: As the cannabis industry continues to grow and mature, leading companies in the sector need to hire many of the same key positions as leading companies in any other industry: C-level executives, professionals with marketing expertise and business development expertise, experts in logistics, manufacturing, distribution, and bio sciences. The list goes on and on.

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What types of companies and what types of roles will H2 Talent be hunting down talent for?

Czarkowski: The companies we recruit for range from those that are in the pre-license phase of developing their business plan and org charts and need talent to be competitive in winning a license to those who are expanding their businesses. We’re finding talent for all verticals in the industry – cultivation, manufacturing/processing and dispensary. We are recruiting for many of the larger cannabis companies that have operations in multiple states. Some of these larger companies are publicly traded and have valuations into the billions of dollars.

Whitmore: Examples of cannabis-expert placements include director and manager levels for cultivation, processing, security, inventory, general management and cannabis construction project management. Examples of C-level and senior management placements include critical team members, from CEO to medical director or pharmacist in charge, to chief compliance officer positions. We also find premier candidates to place in executive and senior management positions in areas such as HR, marketing and sales.

Are you seeing executives from other more traditional sectors looking for work in this sector? 

Czarkowski: Absolutely. So many professionals and executives from other industries have a desire to get involved in cannabis. This is the next great American/global industry. Those that know this want in.

Whitmore: We’ve seen tremendous interest from executive-level talent looking for their start in cannabis. When talking with these candidates looking to make the transition, it’s a lot of education regarding where the industry currently is and where we see it headed.  Some executives understand the nature of a start-up and the mentality required to be successful in that type of environment, and some need to wait for the industry to mature, creating more stable organizations and a broader base of larger companies that are more comparable to their current situation.

What do you see the marijuana industry looking like 10 years from now?   

Comeau: Well, I don’t think it will be 100 percent mature, but at least in the U.S. it will be well on its way. In 10 years, the industry will continue to expand globally. Certainly in 10 years cannabis will be federally legal in the U.S. like it is in Canada and other countries. I also expect every state to have at least a medical cannabis program. And now that research in to cannabis as medicine is beginning, I expect there will be a number of valuable cannabis-based medications and treatments available. And there will be very large, powerful cannabis conglomerates out there. Fortune 500, for sure.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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