With legal recreational sales of marijuana right around the corner, one of the companies that will supply New Brunswickers with cannabis is looking for new workers to meet the demand.
Last week, Finance Minister Cathy Rogers laid out the first steps that will see a new Crown corporation oversee recreational sales in the province. The provincial government still hasn't provided details on a retail model or where these stores will go.
But Organigram and Canopy Growth have secured a deal to supply at least nine million grams of cannabis a year for sale in the province.
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At Moncton-based Organigram, work is well underway to keep up with the incoming demand. Plans to expand operations from its current role as a medical marijuana producer began long ago, according to CEO Greg Engel.
Engel said when the Liberals won the last federal election, the company began working to expand for the impending adult recreational market.
"At that time, Organigram made the decision to raise, you know, raise additional capital to expand and purchase additional property," Engel said.
The expansion will take the plant's existing 36,000 square feet up another 102,000 square feet by the end of the year. Another 36,000 square feet will be added before the end of next year. When the work is complete, the company will go from producing roughly 3,500 kilograms a year to about 20,000 kg a year.
Even with the current expansion plans, Engel said, the company is continuing to look for further expansion possibilities.
"Even with all of our capacity" he said, "the demand is going to still outstrip supply for the first couple of years."
Space is one thing, but finding skilled workers to occupy it is another matter.
Engel said the company is in the midst of a massive hiring phase, which would take its current staff of more than 100 to about 250 by the end of 2018.
The first 40 to 50 of those employees will be sought at a job fair this October.
Ray Gracewood, Organigram's chief commercial officer, said the company is looking for workers from a wide swath of skills.
"We're looking for a skilled workforce that we can continue to build with the same level of experiences as what we've had to this point" said Gracewood.
The jobs the company is looking for, he said, go beyond production. IT, human resources, finance and other administrative jobs will also need to be filled, according to Gracewood.
Vice-president of operations Jeff Purcell said the company is known for its training programs.
"But obviously somebody that brings that horticultural mindset, certainly helpful as well," said Purcell.
The prospect of new jobs is also a possibility with Canopy Growth, which has announced it will be building a plant in Fredericton. But a company spokesperson said in an email that it's too early to say what employment opportunities will be available.
The number of jobs created by the province for recreational sales is also unclear. Finance Department spokesperson Sarah Bustard said in an email that with no retail model in place for the distribution of recreational cannabis, it would be premature to say how many jobs will be created.