Cannabis Industry Advice - From the Inside
Over the last 5 years of working in the Cannabis industry in Canada, I have experienced my share of high's and low's. I’ve worked in both the medical and recreational sides of the market, mostly as an educator and Cannabis writer. Right now, the start-up businesses in the industry are in a rapid growth phase. The environment is unpredictable and the atmosphere is fiercely competitive but offers unlimited potential. The advice below can help you to navigate a more successful and focused career path, with less wasted time.
The good news is that many skills used in traditional markets are transferable into the Cannabis industry. Start by assessing your skills and interests by asking: do you have office or retail experience? Are you technically trained or have management skills? Having previous experience in a ‘regulated market’ such as alcohol or tobacco would be a helpful asset. It is also a benefit if you work well under pressure, as this industry is very reactive at this stage.
If you are interested in entering the market be sure you are qualified. Most provinces require you complete an online certification, which can include a criminal record check. For example, in Alberta, you are required to have the Qualified Cannabis Worker Certification (QCW), through the AGLC. Some universities now offer Cannabis education and training, for those who are interested in having a competitive edge. It is also imperative that you review the Health Canada regulations, particularly the legislation that affects your work directly to be as compliant as possible.
Get Out There and Meet People
I also recommend you attend local networking events and industry expos to meet others in your niche. This will help create opportunities and develop your authority in the community. Most major cities have groups such as Leaf Forward, who have regular meetings and offer a professional atmosphere. Many expos are happening these days, most include panel discussions from industry pioneers and provide a good snapshot of who's involved in the local market.
Get Your online house in Order
If you are serious about developing a career in the Cannabis industry you should have a profile on LinkedIn. This is the most professional social platform available currently and is not as strict about sharing Cannabis content, compared to other platforms. To eliminate some of the stigma surrounding the industry it is important to use the utmost professionalism. I don't recommend using Facebook or Instagram, for a few reasons. Both of these platforms are notorious for deleting profiles of legitimate businesses for posting Cannabis content that is within Canadian government regulation. This is because most social media platforms are based in the USA and do not recognize Canada's new laws. I'm unconvinced this will change until the USA legalizes Cannabis and the platforms adopt new community guidelines. Even then, perhaps not as Facebook has policies prohibiting pharma and alcohol marketing.
How Out of the cannabis closet will you be?
An interesting topic of conversation amongst those already in the industry is: do you talk to people about your work when asked the following; what do you do for a living? As an advocate, who has been doing this work for some time now I have learned to be upfront. Occasionally I would try to avoid the conversation by saying, I work in a 'clinic' or 'in marketing' but this never satisfies those asking. It is something to consider, particularly if you have a conservative background or if you plan to work in other industries later on. Sadly, you might also face discrimination from future employers outside of the industry until consumption becomes more normalized.
Do Your homework
Most of all, be careful who you work for and who you work with. Start by assessing the company you are interested in working for. Then, find out what stage they are at in their growth. Ask what the companies ‘pillars of business’ are and what their ‘office culture’ is like to determine if it is desirable to you. Does the individual you want to partner with have a good understanding of the government regulations and even copyright law etc.? Being choosey and trusting your instincts will help you avoid some of the mistakes I have made already.
While working in the industry I have had the opportunity to meet several influential and inspiring people, experiencing the richness of the Cannabis community. I have been able to travel across the country, attending many events on behalf of my employer which would not have happened in a traditional industry. I also make more money than I would in a similar role outside of the industry, but this has been my experience. There is a better chance at equal opportunities for women in the workforce because this industry requires plenty of new workers, at all levels. However, the wage gap is still a concern. Women only have 17% of the “Director” or “Executive” roles in cannabis companies currently, as per the Forbes, April 2019 article.
Despite the hard work and mistakes, the experience has been worth it. Working in this industry has helped me to achieve my career goals, it was this opportunity that allowed me to become a professional writer. I've been fortunate to have my work published in several Cannabis publications early in my career and I am currently employed as a content writer for a major retailer.
“To be successful in the Cannabis industry you must be self-aware and be clear about your values. You must be adaptable and know how to pivot, so to speak. It is also important you are passionate about the work you do, to get you through the hard days. The risks can be high but so are the rewards for those brave enough to be pioneers in an emerging new market.”
Forbes, Apr 2019.
CannSell , https://learn.cannsell.ca/
BC Worker Information, https://justice.gov.bc.ca/cannabislicensing/policy-document/worker-qualification-training