Canadian marijuana industry targets alcohol, mainstream executives to steer growth

Cannabis executive hires, Canadian marijuana industry targets alcohol, mainstream executives to steer growth

Cannabis corporations in Canada are ramping up their drive to hire executives from the alcohol, tobacco and consumer packaged goods (CPG) sectors to help steer aggressive growth strategies.

Personnel in these sectors have experience getting brands on shelves and into the hands of consumers, so they are highly attractive to leaders in the burgeoning cannabis industry as they prepare to get more diversified products to market – including edibles later this year.

Alison McMahon, founder and CEO of Calgary, Alberta-based Cannabis at Work, a marijuana staffing agency, said recruitment efforts have been focused on executives and management-level positions.

“This summer we saw a lot of interest in bringing in director of sales and those types of roles into (licensed producers) because they know the system,” she said.

Some recent examples include:

When seeking sales directors, McMahon said, marijuana companies are looking for people who already have skill sets and relationships that are convertible to the cannabis industry.

“Cannabis is a recreational substance that is sold through a very similar distribution process as alcohol,” McMahon said. “They know the gaming and liquor commission process. It makes sense to bring those people in because they have the skill set and relationships.”

Lisa Campbell, CEO of Toronto-based Lifford Cannabis Solutions, said marijuana companies want people who can create provincial sales strategies, set key performance indicators and negotiate pricing with the control boards.

“Beverage alcohol executives are familiar working with regulated products, so they are able to navigate restrictions and come up with creative solutions,” she said. “These executives are also open to outsourcing (the) sales force as it’s the same route to market as alcohol.

“As cannabis beverages are on the horizon in Canada in 2019, many of these executives see cannabis as another category similar to alcohol.”

Matt Lamers can be reached at

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