Cannabis co­nun­drum: Who’s hired to sell it?

Prior dis­pen­sary ex­pe­ri­ence seen as both an as­set and a risk for pot re­tail work­ers

Regina Leader-Post - - CITY + REGION -

TORONTO A cannabis-re­lated crim­i­nal past won’t nec­es­sar­ily dis­qual­ify some­one from work­ing at one of the soon-to-be open recre­ational pot shops across the coun­try, but for­mer dis­pen­sary work­ers’ knowl­edge and pas­sion can be seen as both an as­set and a risk, hir­ing man­agers say.

Al­though the av­er­age Cana­dian con­sumer will likely need guid­ance on how to shop for pot, there are “mixed feel­ings” about bring­ing peo­ple into the le­gal cannabis in­dus­try who have worked in the il­licit mar­ket, said Alison Mcma­hon, chief ex­ec­u­tive of con­sul­tancy Cannabis at Work.

Reg­u­la­tors have been very clear that cannabis re­tail con­sul­tants can­not tell cus­tomers that they will have a cer­tain ef­fect or med­i­cal out­come from us­ing the plant, she added.

“When peo­ple are re­ally pas­sion­ate about the plant, that can be al­most a reg­u­la­tory risk be­cause they might al­most over­step their bounds in terms of what they be­lieve and are go­ing to say about the plant that is not al­lowed from a reg­u­la­tory per­spec­tive,” she said.

If the can­di­date has the in­ter­per­sonal skills and self-aware­ness to toe that fine line, how­ever, then that might be the right fit, Mcma­hon added.

Cannabis com­pa­nies have been gear­ing up to hire and train em­ploy­ees in re­cent months, to fill roles such as bud­ten­der at recre­ational cannabis stores ahead of le­gal­iza­tion on Oct. 17.

On­line job post­ings with the words cannabis, mar­i­juana, bud­ten­der and dis­pen­sary in their ti­tle have grown this year from two out of ev­ery 100,000 posts in Fe­bru­ary to 15 in Au­gust and 14 at the start of Oc­to­ber, ac­cord­ing to on­line job post­ing web­site In­

The prov­inces with the most amount of cannabis-re­lated re­tail post­ings have been Al­berta and Bri­tish Columbia, fol­lowed by New Brunswick and On­tario, but that still rep­re­sents a rel­a­tively small seg­ment of over­all post­ings, said In­deed econ­o­mist Bren­don Bernard.

“Once On­tario starts rolling out re­tail stores, I def­i­nitely think we can ex­pect a rise in post­ings there. Other prov­inces, as well ... There are still a lot of open pol­icy ques­tions, so things are pretty un­cer­tain, but I def­i­nitely think this is still a sec­tor to watch.”

While On­tario won’t have any brick-and-mor­tar stores un­til next spring and Bri­tish Columbia will have just one store ready for Oct. 17, other prov­inces such as Al­berta and New­found­land are ex­pect­ing 17 and 20 lo­ca­tions, re­spec­tively, to be open at the out­set of le­gal­iza­tion.

Mean­while, prov­inces such as On­tario have sig­nalled that il­licit dis­pen­saries which are look­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the le­gal frame­work for recre­ational cannabis sales must shut down their op­er­a­tions be­fore ap­ply­ing for a li­cence — leav­ing ex­ist­ing staff in limbo.

When peo­ple are re­ally pas­sion­ate about the plant, that can be al­most a reg­u­la­tory risk ... in terms of what they be­lieve.”

Work­ers with a back­ground in the grey or black mar­ket would have a fair shot at be­ing hired and would be con­sid­ered on merit, said Natalie Wood, di­rec­tor of hu­man re­sources for mar­i­juana clinic op­er­a­tor Na­tional Ac­cess Cannabis.

NAC is aim­ing to open 20 recre­ational cannabis stores by Oct. 17, con­tin­gent on li­cens­ing, and hire be­tween a dozen to 15 in­di­vid­u­als for each lo­ca­tion, she said.

All em­ploy­ees will be sub­ject to a crim­i­nal-back­ground check, as re­quired un­der provin­cial leg­is­la­tion, but pre­vi­ous pos­ses­sion charges, for ex­am­ple, are not a deal-breaker, she added.

“We’re all deal­ing with some­thing that was a pro­hib­ited sub­stance that now is go­ing to be le­gal,” she said. “So we want to be able to, as an or­ga­ni­za­tion make those judg­ment calls on the in­di­vid­u­als that we think is best for the or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

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