Canadian marijuana companies search for workers ahead of legalization

VANCOUVER — Canadian marijuana companies are on a hiring spree, looking to fill an array of roles as they gear up for the legalization of recreational cannabis later this year.

The workforce is booming, said Alison McMahon, who runs Cannabis At Work, a staffing agency focused on the burgeoning industry.

Right now, she’s recruiting for positions in everything from growing and production to sales and marketing, all across the country.

Stigma may once have kept people from applying for work with a cannabis company, but those perceptions have shifted and people are now excited about the opportunities, McMahon said.

“I think that the people, at this point, who are looking at the industry and are excited really see the upside and the growth potential,” she said. ”More and more people are open to this topic, so it doesn’t end up being that big of a deal.”

The buzz around Canadian pot is allowing companies to be picky and choose top talent, said Kerri-Lynn McAllister, chief marketing officer at Lift, a company that puts on cannabis events and runs a website sharing marijuana news and reviews.

“Because of all the excitement, it’s really an opportunity for companies to pick up the A-players in business or whatever field they’re operating in,” said McAllister, speaking from first-hand experience. She recently left a job in the financial tech sector to join Lift.

The industry has come out from the shadows recently, McAllister said, and that’s allowing companies to attract business executives, tech wizards and marketing masters who are at the top of their game.

Dozens of prospective employees came to meet McMahon and her staff at the Lift Cannabis Expo in Vancouver on Saturday, resumes in hand.

Chad Grant said he’s been working in construction, but wants to get a job growing marijuana.

“It’s going to be a big industry, so I’d like to be on the ground floor type thing,” he said.

Working with marijuana is nothing new for some of the applicants.

Grady Jay said he’s been growing for the underground industry for years. Now he wants to transition to working for the legal market.

“I basically want to wake up and do what I love in the morning,” Jay said.

Experience is part of what marijuana companies are looking for, particularly when it comes to production, McMahon said, noting that experience could come from working in a commercial greenhouse or the black market.

Successful applicants can expect to make salaries comparable to what similar industries offer, McMahon said. A general growing position would probably make about $50,000 per year, she said, while a director of production could expect around $100,000.

“Some people seem to think that because it’s cannabis and because of all the growth, the salaries are going to be so high,” McMahon said. ”And that’s not the case. It’s a bit more mainstream around the salaries.”

Anyone who wants to get into the industry should do their research, she added.

“We can have a really great candidate with a great skill set, but if they haven’t looked into what’s happening with the industry at all … that can potentially be a bit of detriment,” McMahon said.

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