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Cannabis cultivators seeing green as salaries rise in Canada

Cannabis cultivators seeing green as salaries rise in Canada

EDMONTON—The real green is in cannabis cultivation, according to a new survey.

Cannabis At Work released its second annual survey on salaries in Canada’s marijuana industry last week, and found pay scales for cultivation jobs are rising faster than other posts in the pot sector.

Alison McMahon is the founder and CEO of Cannabis At Work. The group just released its latest industry salary survey.  (Kevin Tuong / for StarMetro Edmonton)

The group’s founder and CEO Alison McMahon said salaries for jobs like cultivation manager, quality assurance, cultivation technician and processing assistant have all gone up since last year — in some cases, as much as 14 per cent.

“If there’s anywhere in the sector where we’re seeing a talent shortage or skill shortage, it’s on the cultivation side,” she said.

On the higher end, a quality assurance person in Alberta is making an average of more than $103,000 a year, while master growers can expect about $81,000.

McMahon said cannabis producers are having a hard time finding people to work in cultivation because it’s a job that didn’t previously exist.

Some jobs in plant, flower or produce production can be transferable, and plant biology can also be an entry point, she said, but post-secondary institutions are just starting to offer programs in the field.

Olds College in southern Alberta is launching a cannabis production program next month.

“The problem is that we still have a lag in terms of actual enrolment into those programs and actual graduation from those programs,” McMahon said.

By contrast, corporate service roles like human resources and accounting have seen a salary decrease of 6 per cent to 8 per cent since last year.

As cannabis becomes more mainstream, McMahon explained, it’s likely getting easier for companies to recruit people for those roles.

“A couple years ago, you had to almost coax people past being afraid of career suicide, and were paying a bit of a premium for those corporate service people to join the cannabis industry,” she said. “Now we’re seeing that level out.”

The western provinces are generally higher paid than Ontario and the Maritimes as far as overall salaries go in the industry.

A cannabis company CEO in the West is looking at an average yearly pay packet of more than $238,000, compared to the Ontario average of just under $169,000.

McMahon said salaries are higher in Alberta due to wage expectations set by the oil and gas industry, as well as the large scale of some of the cannabis-growing facilities here.

With Bill C-45 recently passing through Senate to legalize the drug, McMahon said now is a good time to get involved.

“This has already been a crazy industry, it’s about to get even wilder,” she said.

“We’ve seen jobs created in the market that literally didn’t exist before, and I think we’re just going to start to see a whole lot more of that. And right away, retail recruitment is going to get underway in a big way.”

Full story is available here.

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