Smokers Wanted: Help needed in cannabis industry ‘behind the scenes’

VANCOUVER, BC – AUGUST 1, 2018 – Cannabis greenhouse at Pure Sunfarms in Delta, BC, August 1, 2018. (Arlen Redekop / PNG staff photo)

A Toronto company seeking to hire five “cannabis connoisseurs”part-time at $50 an hour has raised interest in what the legalized recreational pot industry has in store for the job market.

Turns out there are plenty more lucrative — and mainstream — gigs in the industry for Canadians with transferable skills, who hope for a higher wage but don’t necessarily want to smoke pot for their paycheque.

Website Indeed’s cannabis listings quadrupled between July 2017 and July 2018 and on Wednesday the site had more than 280 positions listed in B.C. While retail sales or “bud tender” positions in dispensaries were listed at $14 or $15 an hour, managerial salaries ranged from $45,000 to $90,000 a year and executive roles were being offered for over $100,000.

Meantime, B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch, which is overseeing distribution and government retail sales, has listings for warehouse workers, customer service agents and senior roles.

Alison McMahon, CEO of Cannabis At Work, which recruits for major licensed producers and other cannabis businesses, said there had been plenty of focus on cultivation, quality assurance and retail roles, but in the past six months more employers had been trying to fill “behind the scenes” positions in regulatory management, human resources and finance.

“I think what’s interesting is that as we get closer to legalization, and as these organizations that have been in the market mature, they have to build out that infrastructure internally, so we’re seeing a pretty big breadth in terms of the types of roles,” McMahon said.

Cultivation workers have been trickier to hire because there’s a limited pool of people who have grown under the federally-regulated framework, and some employers are hesitant to hire experienced growers from the illicit market who have had charges and require security clearance.

A recent Cannabis At Work salary survey, conducted with 19 organizations, found that salaries for customer care specialists (an entry-level position) in western provinces averaged $41,000 a year, while growing technicians made $50,000 and quality assurance associates made $60,000. Almost all of the organizations said they provided coverage for medical and dental, and life insurance.

“Sometimes people think that cannabis industry jobs are going to be really inflated because of all the hype around the industry, and growth, or that they’re going to be low because of the stigma. But they’re really quite mainstream, the salaries that you would expect in similar roles in other industries,” McMahon said.

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