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Marijuana startup Caliva is luring Uber and Lyft drivers with health benefits

Bay area cannabis company Caliva is attempting to disrupt the gig economy by offering another option for car service drivers from companies like Uber (UBER), Lyft (LYFT), and DoorDash. The company is poaching those drivers, part of the millions of gig economy workers in the U.S., to fulfill thousands of its on-demand delivery orders.

And since state regulations require cannabis companies in California to hire drivers as regular employees rather than contractors, those drivers are given jobs complete with 401(k) plans and health benefits.

Although cannabis is illegal on the federal level, 33 states now allow the sale of marijuana for medical use. Ten of those states have legalized it for recreational use, making the cannabis industry, led by Canopy Growth (CGC) and Aurora, (ACB) a fast-growing job sector.

Cannabis revenue race

But Former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz, who stepped out of the tech space and into the booming cannabis industry as Caliva’s chairman of the board, says it is still harder to hire employees for a cannabis business than for a traditional tech company.

“We’ve had parents say ‘you’re working for what?’” Bartz told Yahoo Finance’s “YFi PM” on Tuesday. “We had our first parents come see the place before [the applicant] was allowed to work there. The parents literally demanded a tour, and then they bought a bunch of products.”

And as an investor in Caliva—along with other big names like football legend Joe Montana—Bartz says her decision to delve into the cannabis sector was very personal.

“I chanced into the concept of lotions and things to help my painful knees,” Bartz says. “I started investigating cannabis and I just got crazy happy. I said ‘wow, if I’m going to start using this kind of product, I want to do it from this kind of company.’”

Caliva employs 550 workers in the Bay Area ranging from drivers and growers to bud trimmers and scientists. The company has expanded rapidly, hiring 370 of those employees since the beginning of 2018.

And the push is showing in Caliva’s numbers with revenue increasing 400% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2019. The company says it plans to push its portfolio of products by appealing to more cannabis users in California through both brick-and-mortar stores and direct-to-consumer sales.

CBD geography

And Bartz says with so much opportunity in California, there is no immediate need to expand across state lines.

“California is 38% of the cannabis market,” Bartz says. “We have a lot we can do playing in California. We don’t have to worry and don’t want to worry about going into other states at this point.”

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