Legalization sparks hundreds of Saskatchewan cannabis jobs

Marijuana grow ops, distribution centres, warehouses and retail stores across Saskatchewan will hire close to 700 people in time for legalization this fall.

Grow ops, distribution centres, retail stores expected to hire close to 700 people ahead of legalization

In this Friday, Dec.18, 2015, file photograph, the logo is shown on the front of jars of marijuana buds marketed by rapper Snopp Dogg in one of the LivWell marijuana chain's outlets south of downtown Denver. As legal marijuana becomes a further-entrenched fact of life in Colorado, small-town leaders are struggling to sort out the same issues that Denver and other cities have tangled with, from zoning for grows and dispensaries to allowing cannabis clubs. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

Kevin Tindall does not smoke pot.

But the corporate accountant in Saskatoon and his business partners need at least 10 people in Swift Current, Sask., who can explain marijuana to new customers and keep Tindall's downtown cannabis store rolling once recreational marijuana use becomes legal on Oct. 17.

"It's going to be based on personality and their ability to sell," said Tindall, who spent several years running a Boston Pizza in Swift Current before moving to the corporate world, eventually winning one of the province's 51 permits to retail pot.

"We're looking forward to being open well before the legalization date just for information purposes," Tindall said. "I think this industry's going to be huge."

Saskatoon accountant Kevin Tindall plans to hire 10 employees at his cannabis shop in downtown Swift Current. (CBC)

In total, CBC News has found marijuana grow ops, distribution centres, warehouses and retail stores across Saskatchewan will likely hire close to 700 people in time for legalization this fall.

CBC contacted people who hold retail cannabis sales permits in Saskatchewan, with most in Saskatoon and Regina saying they planned to hire between 20 and 25 employees.

One permit holder said she planned to hire just three people.

Tweed Grasslands, meanwhile, will hire at least 25 staff for each of its stores in Fort Qu'Appelle, Humboldt, Meadow Lake, Melville, and the rural municipality of Corman Park.

CBC contacted cannabis retail permit holders to ask how many people they planned to hire for each store this fall. The answers ranged from three to 25 employees. (CBC)

"In Saskatchewan we're definitely on the hunt for skilled people who are energetic and smart and fit the culture," said Andrew MacCorquodale, a managing director with Canopy Growth, Canada's largest cannabis company and the owner of Tweed Grasslands.

He estimated Tweed's medical marijuana grow operation at Yorkton would employ at least 80 people by the end of the year.

It's not alone.

Aurora Cannabis, a licensed cannabis producer, has posted online advertisements this summer as it hires a regulatory affairs associate, a medical marketing co-ordinator and a project manager, along with manufacturing and cultivation assistants in Saskatchewan.

Across Canada, Tweed is hiring an estimated 1,000 employees in advance of cannabis legalization this year. The Canadian cannabis giant will open five retail locations in Saskatchewan, along with a grow operation at Yorkton. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Staff at High Tide, an Alberta cannabis accessory wholesale company, predicted at least five to 10 wholesale companies will apply for permits to broker weed shipments in Saskatchewan, each employing at least six people.

Warehouses and distribution facilities near North Battleford, Regina and Saskatoon should employ more than 200 people as retailers look for consistent, high-quality suppliers.

"I really think this is going to be an important economic driver for Saskatchewan," said Trevor Fencott, the CEO of Edmonton-based Fire & Flower.

Trevor Fencott, the CEO of Fire & Flower, said he plans to hire 14 people at the company's Yorkton location, and send them to Edmonton for training. (Submitted by Fire & Flower)

His company landed one of Yorkton's two cannabis retail permits and hopes to make a good first impression.

He expects a significant portion of his customers in Yorkton will be older, and may be trying marijuana for the first time in years.

"There's a lot of myths and misconceptions out there in the grey market about cannabis and the science behind cannabis, and there's a lot of confusion out there," said Fencott. 

He's hiring 14 people, but he's not looking for heavy users.

"Let the customer figure out whether the product fits their lifestyle or not," said Fencott.

"Ultimately we're about building a sustainable industry here."