Canadian cannabis companies are gearing up to provide for millions of new customers when October 17th rolls around, creating jobs and paying higher salaries to well-trained employees. As marijuana businesses look to expand operations and fill needed positions, the food and beverage industry has become a natural recruiting ground as The Globe and Mail covered:

Examples of the cannabis sector poaching talent from the food and beverage space aren’t hard to find. Vancouver-based Harvest One Cannabis Inc. named Grant Froese as its chief executive officer on July 4. Mr. Froese took the job after a 38-year career with Loblaw Cos. Ltd., where he last served as chief operating officer. Kelowna’s GreenTec Holdings Ltd. recently wooed two high-level employees from Kelowna food and beverage manufacturer Sun-Rype Products Ltd. – former president and chief executive officer David Lynn and Stefan Sarachie, who was Sun-Rype’s food safety and regulatory affairs specialist.

Jay Wilgar, CEO of Up Cannabis Inc. in Oakville, Ont., says people who have worked in the food and beverage sectors are a natural fit for the recreational cannabis space. “When you think about food and beverage, it’s highly regulated, dealing with the government, dealing with taxation and distribution – all the things we have to deal with,” Mr. Wilgar said.

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Canopy Growth Corp., one of Canada’s largest cannabis companies with about 1,000 employees, also views the food and beverage sectors as fertile ground to find staff, particularly at the executive level. “There isn’t a deep pool of executive talent that comes from the cannabis industry because it’s so new,” says Jordan Sinclair, vice-president of communications for Canopy Growth. “We look to industries like the beer industry, food production or the pharmaceutical industry because they all have complementary skills sets that you can apply to cannabis in various ways.”

Based in Smith Falls, Ont., Canopy Growth’s leadership team includes beer industry veteran Dave Bigioni. Before he took on the role as the company’s chief marketing officer in August, 2017, Mr. Bigioni was vice-president of marketing and sales for Molson Coors Brewing Co.’s Canadian operations.

The cannabis industry is an extremely tough market, but opportunities abound for those that can carve out their niche. If you are in the food and beverage industry and want to transition into the cannabis industry — where you have the opportunity to rise with companies from the ground floor, familiarize yourself with the cannabis plant, and learn the local rules and regulations that you will need to follow — then now is a perfect time to make that transition. You don’t necessarily have to be an expert, but a solid foundation could go a long way to making it in an exciting industry with huge potential.

If you are in the cannabis industry, or are thinking of joining, the International Cannabis Business Conference is the marijuana business event for you. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn the latest and network with top employers, investors, entrepreneurs and advocates from around the world. The next ICBC is in Portland, Oregon, on September 27th-28th. Get your early bird tickets by September 12th to save $200.