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Cannabis Sparks a U.S.-Canadian War for Top Employees

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Canada has gotten a head start on legalization, but the United States is catching up with Illinois becoming the 11th state to end cannabis prohibition. The Great White North has the advantage of a sensible federal policy that allows provides regular banking services to the industry, access to capital, and the ability to transport to other countries, but the U.S. already has a bigger domestic consumer base, with just California alone, by itself the 6th largest economy alone, with about 2 million more residents than Canada. We’re seeing Congress considering progressive cannabis legalization and most Democratic presidential candidates supporting federal legalization while both Joe Biden and Donald Trump signaling their support for states’ rights on the issue. With cannabis going mainstream, the North American industry is seeing competition for top talent to help navigate the market, a trend that will turn into a full-blown “war” for employees once Uncle Sam sheds its prohibitionist past, as Barron’s reports:

When that happens, then the talent war will really heat up. U.S. marijuana firms will be looking to poach executives from Canadian companies — executives who, by then, will have had enough time in the industry to see the challenges, opportunities, and avoidable mistakes, making them invaluable to emerging U.S. cannabis players.

Of course, this competition isn’t limited to just two countries. With more governments legalizing weed for medical use, Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics predict worldwide spending on legal cannabis will reach $57 billion by 2027. So nations from Germany to Mexico can be expected to create new corporations — and, in the process, look for C-suite talent with marijuana industry experience. Guess where they’ll look first? North America.

We’re also likely to see a surge in competition among investment banks for people with expertise in the pot sector. Legal Cannabis has been a boon to Canadian investment banks, particularly among boutique firms. And the Canadian arms of certain U.S. advisory shops have been actively involved in some of the industry’s largest transactions, such as Greenhill advising Canopy in its $3.4 billion deal for Acreage Holdings. As the United States takes further steps toward legalization, I expect U.S. banks to start looking to pluck Canada-based investment bankers with a specialty in cannabis, who are quickly distinguishing themselves as experts in this emerging sector.

For most people, working in the cannabis industry is NOT a get-rich-quick scheme, no matter how many times you see headlines about the “Green Rush.” Yes, there is money to be made and the overall revenue numbers can be impressive, but the competition is fierce and to keep up a lot of hours and innovative ideas are required. The rewards can be great and if you have the right knowledge and make the right connections, the future is looking brighter and brighter.

The International Cannabis Business Conference is the industry event to learn the latest and to network with top investors, entrepreneurs, and employers. Join us on September 15th-16th when we return to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Be sure to secure discounted, early bird tickets by August 21st to save. 

Acreage Holdings, ArcView, Barron's, BDS, Greenhill