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Coming Legalization in Ottawa Sets Cannabis Companies off on a Hiring Spree

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With the legalization of recreational marijuana on the horizon in Ottawa, major cannabis companies are scouring the food and beverage industry for talent.

This is prime-picking for up-and-coming cannabis companies that want to widen their reach, thicken their staff, and introduce experienced men and woman to their executive ranks. And it’s a rare opportunity to do so—the relatively young cannabis industry doesn’t have a pool of qualified executives quite as deep as the longer-lived food and beverage industry. So, for many companies, the talent they can hire in the coming years is a serious issue that could make or break them.

It isn’t hard to imagine why food and beverage executives would make such a good fit for the cannabis industry. After all, their line of work also involved working with products that are closely monitored by the government, heavily regulated, and require unique distribution and taxation methods.

Some companies, like Canopy Growth Corp., one of the largest cannabis companies in Canada, are looking specifically at the beer and pharmaceutical industry to grow their already astounding employee base, which currently clocks in around one thousand. They, like many others, have their eyes set on workers from any field that requires similar skills to their own. And those familiar with the beer and pharmaceutical trade are no doubt skilled at marketing tightly regulated products aimed at consenting adults.

It seems like quite a few cannabis companies are getting what they’re looking for, impressing executives and employees with high salaries and novel work. But some are still hesitant to join the cannabis industry, which bears the lasting stigma of the many decades in which its product has been treated as an illegal drug. Moreover, not every cannabis company can match, let alone beat, the sky-high salaries paid to some of the top talents in the Ottawa food and beverage industry. It often takes a little extra: some stock options, bonuses, or simply the promise of being involved with an industry that just doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Others are jumping at the chance, fatigued with their own industry, which might look stagnant when compared to the uncertain but booming cannabis market, still fledgling but with great promise. And with the coming legalization of cannabis-based edibles and beverages, expected in 2019, this trend is likely to continue.

But it’s important to remember that all of this talent poaching and growth in the cannabis industry isn’t leaving the food and beverage market any better off. Left and right, their top players are being offered new, promising jobs. And though many experts don’t believe that it will leave any company devastated, there are concerns that it will tear a hole at the executive level of some that will be hard and costly to fill—especially if all of the potential candidates are being snatched up by cannabis companies.

Nicholas Reichenbach, the CEO of the Toronto-based spring water company, Flow Water Inc., is running into a similar problem. He believes that all of this talent poaching is leaving his successful young company barred from growth. In the previous year, he was able to double his staff with little difficulty. But now that the cannabis industry has entered the game, he, like many others, are finding it more and more difficult to attract, let alone hire, talent. Only time will tell what this new trend will do to previously existing markets. But perhaps, for all its disruptions, it will provide new, lucrative opportunities.

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