How the Cannabis Industry Is Reigniting Small Town Jobs

Canada is legalizing cannabis in July 2018 but will the new industry revitalize small towns left behind by automation and the death of industry?

Much has been written about the death of the once thriving small town. With many traditionally small town industries, such as manufacturing and auto, moving to other countries or seeing layoffs due to increasing automation, small town jobs have become harder to find.


However, some smaller cities are feeling hopeful again. With cannabis set to become legal on July 1, more companies are now looking at rural locations to set up greenhouses, manufacturing plants and other operations that need space – and people who have the get-your-hands-dirty experience required to work at a cannabis company.


Titch Dharamsi, founder of Canveda Inc., a Peterborough-based medical cannabis company, says that production requires acres of land – mostly available in small industrial and agricultural towns – and people with farming, management and land development backgrounds to do the work.


There is potential for the industry to bring employment to and revitalize rural Canada and while employment growth estimates aren’t available yet, what’s for certain is that small towns are aggressively pursuing cannabis companies and encouraging them to set up in their locales.


“I think we’re going to have an impact shortly,” says Mr. Dharamsi. “And this is why we were invited into [Peterborough] four years ago when we were scouting space.”


Bryan Wagner, CEO of BC’s Cannabis Compliance which advises companies looking to enter the industry, said that it’s difficult to know how many jobs will come to small towns because of the cannabis industry. “In the next three to four years, there might be 1,000 to 1,400 legal producers, who could hire anywhere from 50 to 200 people.”


Deepak Anand, Cannabis Compliance’s vice president of government relations added, “We’ve seen jobs in small towns like Nanaimo where Tilray is based skyrocket. I expect the same to happen in Atholville where LP Zenabis is based.”


Mr. Dharamsi says Mayor Daryl Bennett, the economic council, the police and fire chiefs were supportive because they like the idea of economic renewal. And, while it’s still early, having Canveda in town is starting to pay dividends.


“The immediate effect they’ve seen with our presence is the refurbishment and revitalization of part of their industrial space near Highway 35,” says Mr. Dharamsi. Canveda built a 12,000 square foot plant which will expand to 30,000 sq. ft in 2018.


Canveda also promised officials that it would hire locals, and so far it has hired a couple dozen people. “The business plan calls for 100 folks to be hired, almost all local, when we’re in full production,” says Mr. Dharamsi.  


“We’re lucky we’re in such a great town. It’s an agricultural centre and it has Trent University with a number of research departments with whom we signed agreements,” he says. “So there’s a lot of brains, talent and history of people in the agricultural sector getting their hands dirty.”


Since 2014, Tilray, one of the biggest medical cannabis companies in Canada, has been injecting money into Nanaimo’s local economy and it will soon be operating a second facility in Enniskillen, ON, which has a population of 2,930. It currently employs 200 people globally, with most based in Nanaimo and it hopes to create 200 and 250 full-time jobs in Ontario, with approximately 50 people working in operations, production, cultivation and facilities through the end of 2018, according to Tilray’s president, Brendan Kennedy.


While most of those jobs are directly working in the industry, ancillary industries are also expected to grow as cannabis production picks up across the country. Deloitte estimates that the ancillary markets of growers, infused product makers, testing labs and security could create a $12.7 billion to $22.6 billion dollar market.


Whatever the employment numbers, the demand for legal cannabis is expected to skyrocket according to the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. It found that by 2018, an estimated 4.6 million Canadians will use cannabis at least once with an increase to 5.2 million by 2021. Whether that demand leads to a healthy employment rate will only be seen after 2018 when Statistics Canada will have collected enough data.


”You’ve got everyone from the guy who cleans the floors to the courier delivery driver to guys who are collecting unpaid invoices, insurance companies, HVAC workers, security, food companies, it’s a lot,” says Mr. Wagner. “It’s exciting as this is the birth of an industry overnight,”

Commissioned by the Globe Content Studios but killed. Information accurate as of 2017. 


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