HOLYOKE — Medical marijuana company representatives spent over three hours Monday interviewing hundreds of job-seekers at an employment fair.
CEO Peter Kadens of GTI Massachusetts NP Corp. told the standing-room-only crowd at Gateway City Arts on Race Street the company will provide jobs at a facility on Appleton Street, and will help in other ways.
“We want to be a catalyst for bringing people together in this city. We want to be a catalyst for re-employing people in Ward 1 and Ward 2. We are committed to that,” Kadens said.
Jon Thomforde of GTI said 30 to 40 positions will be filled initially and then more in the first six months and others in the first year of operation.
Construction is mostly done on the first part of the facility at 28 Appleton St. and it is scheduled to open in January, he told The Republican before the event.
In his remarks, Kadens said the cannabis industry is about second chances. The company in January will pay $10,000 for lawyers to meet with people in the community who have had marijuana convictions that have hindered their ability to get jobs, to help them seal or expunge their records and gain exoneration, he said.
People serving prison sentences and burdened with a criminal record because of convictions related to marijuana that today is legal or would be a a misdemeanor are among those demonized by the government’s failed war on drugs, he said.
Also, now that marijuana for medical purposes is legalized and widely available, such treatment can help people ravaged by addictions to drugs like Oxycontin and other opioids, he said.
“Cannabis is all about second chances,” he said. “That’s the next second chance.”
Marijuana’s medical uses are available not only through smoking but by ingesting in edible or drinkable forms and as a suppository, he said.
“Here in Holyoke at 28 Appleton we will produce all of these products,” Kadens said.
Jobs will include: growers, horticulturalists, manual labor related to growing the plant, processing the plant once it is harvested, placing it in extraction machines to turn the plant into gases and liquids, chemists, laboratory technicians, management, security, construction and engineering, drying, trimming, curing and processing the plants, crop maintenance and packaging, he said.
The company emphasizes a positive attitude in employees, people who come to work happy and focused on the business’ best interest, he said.
“You cannot do good business with bad people. You cannot do positive business with negative people,” Kadens said.
And weirdos are welcome.
“For those of you out there who think you’re weird, that’s cool, we want weirdos. We like weirdos. That’s a good thing. So, embrace you’re outer weirdo,” he said.
Those who stood in the numerous job-interview lines in the Gateway City Arts bar and performance space said they were there to find work, learn about GTI or just accompany family and friends.
Lawrence Munoz, 47, of Chicopee said he has experience in security and wants to join “what is potentially going to be the biggest industry around.”
“I think being in at the ground level when it opens up could create opportunities, for the near future, anyways,” Munoz said.
Jessica Tait, 24, of Chicopee, a state-certified pharmacy technician, was the last person in one of the lines. Some people want to hear nothing about marijuana’s benefits and others have embraced such treatment’s potential, but the size of the crowd showed a belief in the business, she said.
“Clearly, if no one thought it had any medical use, it wouldn’t be so packed,” Tait said.
Carlos Pena, 42, of Holyoke, attended the fair to learn about GTI and its plans and not to seek a job, necessarily.
“I mean, if the job is lucrative,” Pena said with a smile.
The size of the crowd impressed him.
“It’s a lot of people that want to work,” Pena said.
Auria Gonzalez of Springfield was among those who stayed seated after Kadens’ remarks and formation of the interview lines. Her daughter was interviewing.
“I’m here to support my daughter. We come from different ways of thinking. I’m kind of old-fashioned (about marijuana). She thinks it is something to help people with their illnesses. I’ve never given it a whole lot of thought, but I support her,” Gonzalez said.