Legalization creates cannabis career boom in Winnipeg

The legalization of cannabis has created a mini job boom in Winnipeg.

Hundreds of people already working in cannabis-related jobs in city, number expected to grow

John Arbuthnot is the CEO of Delta 9 Cannabis. The company has hired lawyers, accountants, and IT professionals and needs more front-line harvesters, biologists and chemists. (Lyza Sale/CBC)

Budding professionals in Winnipeg who are looking for a new career challenge may have found their calling.

Everyone from scientists to store managers to marketers have taken on new cannabis-related jobs in the city.

"It's such an interesting time to be in the industry and I think for a marketer, such as myself, it was just so enticing for that reason. Just to be able to say, you know, I was here at this time doing this," said newly-hired Molly Karp, the community manager for Tokyo Smoke, one of four retailers that will sell pot in Manitoba starting Wednesday.

Karp was headhunted by the Toronto-based company in the summer and admits she was a little apprehensive to the idea of working in the field.

"I was kind of at first like 'What? No I'm not moving into the cannabis industry,' but then the more and more I looked into the Tokyo Smoke brand in particular and the emphasis that we place on esthetic and really that information-first protocol, I think that really just attracted me to it," said the creative communications grad from Red River College.

Molly Karp switched careers as a marketer to work for cannabis retailer Tokyo Smoke. (Lyza Sale/CBC)

Karp said Tokyo Smoke will have about 90 employees working at three different retail stores in Winnipeg.

The St. Boniface location will open on Wednesday, while the rest of the stores will be ready a couple of weeks after legalization. They will open in Osborne Village, the Exchange District and St. Boniface. She said there will be an additional 30 employees working at a location in Brandon set to open next month. The retailer hopes to eventually expand and have a total of 10-12 stores up and running in Manitoba, she said. "It's a big effort."

At Delta 9 Cannabis, the company has about 185 employees currently working and that number is expected to grow when it fills about 60 more jobs by the end of the year.

Share-based compensation as benefits 

The company is recruiting staff from a number of fields including the aerospace and manufacturing industries to work at its secure Winnipeg harvesting facility. Delta 9 has hired lawyers, accountants, and IT professionals and needs more front-line harvesters, biologists and chemists. Then there are the people in charge of quality control and inventory and the construction crews working to expand its facility.

"It is quite incredible to see and particularly when we look at Delta 9 that just a few years ago and coming from very humble beginnings as a father-son business, the ramp up has been very exciting in advance of legalization here," said John Arbuthnot, the company's 28-year-old CEO who jokes he's starting to get grey hair from running the now multimillion-dollar company.

Arbuthnot said employees are paid a variety of salaries and no one will get minimum wage. Front-line harvesting employees earn $15/hour and the company uses share-based compensation as benefits.

Employees have come from all walks of life at Delta 9. (Lyza Sale/CBC)

Like Tokyo Smoke, Delta 9 is getting ready to sell cannabis at new retail locations it'll run and that too has created a separate demand for jobs.

Baristas recruited

"When we talk retail, we're pulling people from Starbucks, from large retailers, so really I think it's trying to find people with those appropriate skill sets from existing industries and, of course, there's no shortage of people who are willing and very eager to work in the cannabis space."

Both Delta 9 and Tokyo Smoke said they've hired employees already well-versed in cannabis and newbies like Karp who didn't know much about it until a few months ago.

"It really is fascinating — all of the economic benefits of the jobs growth side of the story," said Arbuthnot.

More front-line harvesters, like the ones seen working in this secure pod, are needed at Delta 9 as the company continues to expand its Winnipeg cannabis harvesting facility. (Lyza Sale/CBC)

Government jobs created

Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries has created five new cannabis-related positions and the province said it has hired two full-time staffers to work on cannabis legalization implementation duties.

The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba said it has about 90 staff who work to regulate the province's liquor, gaming and now cannabis industries, but said it's not possible to break down how many jobs are strictly cannabis related due to job mergers.

"All of our staff in certain functions have had cannabis work added to their roles. For example, rather than have cannabis-specific inspectors, all of our inspectors are trained in gaming, liquor and cannabis inspections," said spokesperson Kristianne Dechant in an email.

"This lets us organize inspectors' work in zones so as to minimize their driving time. It also makes us very flexible - right now, when we've got a big push for cannabis licensing and inspections work, we can be all hands on deck, but as it slows, staff will move back to more of a balance of gaming, liquor and cannabis work."

Cannabis career boom in Winnipeg

CBC News Manitoba

2 years ago
Hundreds of people are already working in cannabis-related jobs in city and numbers are expected to grow. 2:19


​Austin Grabish joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. In 2019, he was on the ground in northern Manitoba covering the manhunt for B.C. fugitives Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, which attracted international attention. Have a story idea? Email:


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