Kush Jobs: Tech Skills in High Demand in Canada’s Cannabis Sector

(Damian Zaleski/Unsplash)

Web design and software development skills have always been marketable, but until recently the opportunity to work in the cannabis industry might not have been top of mind among those learning them.

As we near the end of 2018, on the other hand, you could say that the jobs for those wanting to take part in the “weed tech” boom are lighting up everywhere.

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A few months ago, for example, Toronto-based tech training provider, BrainStation, hosted an event to explore the impact the recent legalization of adult-use cannabis in Canada would have on those seeking technology-related careers. The short answer was: huge.

“Saying that there’s opportunity doesn’t even scratch the surface,” said John Prentice, president and CEO of Ample Organics, Canada’s leading seed-to-sale software. “If anything, the cannabis industry is becoming very tech-heavy, because the companies are well-capitalized, they can invest in technology, and they’re brand new—these facilities were just built and they’ve got the latest and greatest in there.”

Computer Programmers Wanted

One obvious area where programming skills are in high demand is in software and web development for e-commerce sales. (In Ontario, for example, the provincially run online Ontario Cannabis Store, or OCS, is currently the only legal place to purchase recreational cannabis.) But programmers are being called upon to help automate entire business processes, too.

“Seed-to-sale platforms connect almost every aspect of the cannabis industry, from tracking the plants during growth and production to comprehensive client databases, automated prescription management, their own e-commerce sites, and most importantly, data on quality assurance and compliance,” according to a recent article on ITBusiness.ca.

Legal cannabis could blossom into a $22.6 billion industry and add 150,000 jobs over the next several years.
Deloitte

Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone recognized the interest in weed tech talent early on, interviewing Toronto-based lawyer Michael Garbuz from CannaRoyalty about the myriad areas where coding and other specialty areas may find a home.

“We are seeing new technologies that control how quickly you feel the effects, the consistency of effects, and the entire consumer experience,” he said. “Tech innovation and ongoing R&D are ingredients that the industry needs to continue to mature and grow.”

The Canadian Press, meanwhile, noted a few weeks ago how tech giants such as Shopify are already creating a strong foothold in the cannabis space. Marketplaces such as Leafly are using technology to educate users and facilitate matches between them, growers and popular products and strains. Even newer entrants like Grow Ratio are also cornering the market for growers with unique mobile apps.

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Skills in Digital Marketing, Data Science, and UX Design Increasingly Valuable

Marketers should also take note of all the new products being developed. Restrictions on which channels can be used to advertise cannabis products are making digital marketing skills such as search engine optimization (SEO) more, not less, valuable in this growing sector. Ditto for data science skills and user experience (UX) design, which are helping companies up and down the supply chain ensure everything from business processes and inventorying to cannabis production run smoothly.

Then there are those who might use their tech skills to create their own venture. Avenues for would-be “weedpreneurs” include Leaf Forward, a Toronto-based cannabis business accelerator that started out as a monthly meet-up for entrepreneurs in the sector about a year and a half ago. The organization now describes itself as the “global launchpad” for those in the cannabis space, including many fledgling tech startups.

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Deloitte forecasts that legal cannabis could blossom into a $22.6 billion industry and add 150,000 jobs over the next several years. As with finance, retail or any other sector, working in cannabis may eventually require more industry-specific knowledge. At the moment, though, it’s a particularly prescient time to apply technology skills in an area that is only going to grow.